Will Call: Chain of fools | PostIndependent.com

Will Call: Chain of fools

When Carbondale gets its new grocery store, there’s a good chance it will come with a Starbucks.

It seems like another step toward the homogenization of our society, but I have to admit that it could have been much worse.

I was too young to vote during the Crystal River Marketplace controversy, but I wrote a letter to the Valley Journal urging residents to reject it. When someone wrote back to assert that a 13-year-old could not possibly have an interest in the process, I remember wondering who could have more at stake.

When it came back a few years later as the Village at Crystal River, I admit to being a little mystified by the clamor for a new grocery store. Hadn’t City Market done a major expansion when it bought out Circle Soopers in the mid ’90s? Sure, there are posts in the middle of some aisles and the deli is smaller than some of its counterparts, but that hardly seemed worth driving to El Jebel to avoid.

Once again, we rejected the offer. Since then, we’ve watched the rise of Willits. The comparison has some drooling over the tax revenue and others, myself including, glad to have avoided such an urban wasteland.

Still, time has given me, if not wisdom, at least some perspective. Growing up here gave me context, but also blinders.

I think on some level I used to think that without City Market, Carbondale would be peppered with butchers and bakers in addition to alternatives like the Food Co-Op and Theresa’s Market.

Well, Silt has no grocery store of its own, and the dollar store isn’t exactly the hometown solution I imagined might fill such a void. The comparison helps me appreciate easy access to fresh produce, to say nothing of the indirect benefits the tax revenue brings.

Given that we already have a dozen brands of toilet paper to choose from, I’m still not sure I actually see the need for a bigger facility and more selection, but I understand that others do.

The Starbucks is a bit harder to swallow, but mostly on principle and not in practice.

Before I went off to college, I mostly equated chain restaurants with fast food– places you stopped when you were on the road and didn’t have time to locate or patronize a real, local establishment. Lacking an independent sandwich shop, I sometimes ate at Subway, but would never have dreamed of ordering Domino’s instead of walking down to Peppino’s.

Imagine my surprise my first year at CU Boulder when I got invited to a celebration at the Cheesecake Factory. I don’t remember the specific occasion — probably a birthday or maybe just the end of the semester — but it was the sort of moment I associated with a nice dinner at Six89. Instead, I found myself in a place with upscale ambiance but lacking in that personal touch in both food and feeling that comes when the person with the vision is actually in the kitchen. It’s what Kurt Wigger did for the Sopris Restaurant, what Sigrid and Andreas Fischbacher bring to Allegria, and what makes Lacy Hughes synonymous with SILO.

I still think that Chipotle has nothing on Dos Gringos, but I’ve learned why the one size fits all approach is so successful. Someone who grew up outside of Chicago can walk into a restaurant in Denver and get the exact same thing they got back home. My favorite dishes are not so easy to replicate elsewhere, which makes them that much more special.

My grandfather lives in Denver, and while many of his favorite haunts on Capitol Hill are independent, he gets his morning coffee at Starbucks. He jokes around with the baristas, reads the paper, and sometimes meets a friend for long philosophical conversations. In short, it provides everything that people look for in a coffee shop.

If it’s anything like the one in Glenwood’s City Market, I don’t think Carbondale’s Starbucks will do the same. Even if it’s set back from the hard surfaces and bright lights of the store proper, it just doesn’t seem conducive to the coffee shop vibe.

I’d call that a good thing. One of our biggest fears with chains is that they’ll drive away the mom and pop establishments. The new Starbucks will no doubt be a handy stop for someone in need of a quick caffeine fix. I’m pretty sure, though, that the devoted followers of Town or Bonfire aren’t going to suddenly start hanging out at a grocery store coffee shop. Glenwood even has a couple of sit-down Starbucks and still supports an array of independent coffee shops.

I’ll admit, I took a certain amount of pride in escaping the empire for this long, but I don’t think it’s going to singlehandedly ruin our town.

Let’s have a little faith in ourselves to support what we value.

Will Grandbois should probably disclose that he’s more of a tea drinker. He can be reached at 384-9105 or will@postindependent.com.

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