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Willamette Week publishes an article on Starbucks in Seven Corners struggle

This certainly isn't the worst article that's ever appeared in the WW (especially by its notorious author, Nick Budnick). Factually, it's on-base (which with the corporate media cannot by any means be assumed), but the style of Budnick and the WW (and most city weeklies across the country) continutes to be grating. His "hip" (or is it "post-hip"?) oh-so-clever tone (seen here in the descriptions of the R&B and its customers) has a tendency to trivialize whatever subject it touches, especially when that subject is activists and their concerns; note, in contrast, his straight-up quoting of the Starbucks corporate line with no irony whatsoever. Is this nit-picking (or maybe, "Nick-picking")? No. It's important to be a careful reader if you're going to expose yourself to the slick corporate media, and form is just as important as content. In the case of the WW (and, as I said, most weeklies across the country), that form is usually fairly cloying, with the result that its subjects are often cast more tritely than they deserve.

Still, with a campaign like this one, there's some truth to the adage that any coverage is good coverage. This article will bring the struggle to keep Starbucks out of Seven Corners to the attention of more people, many of whom will see through the fluffy veneer and who might lend their energy to the fight, and that's great. I'll stop short of thanking Budnick for his effort though -- it is, after all, just his job. ;-)
Coffee Culture Clash
A Southeast Portland institution takes on its ultimate enemy.
BY NICK BUDNICK
 nbudnick@wweek.com
(503) 243-2122

Walk into the Red and Black Cafe on any given night and you're liable to find a Dennis Kucinich campaign strategy meeting, an open-mic poetry slam, or a group of anti-corporate protesters speaking in hushed tones over pints of organic beer.

Since its 2001 inception, the Southeast Division Street restaurant, which succeeded the Flying Saucer coffee shop, has become a nerve center of Portland's lefty counterculture.

There are books and magazines and anti-corporate propaganda, but also a prominently displayed bumper sticker proclaiming "death to coffee shop intellectuals."

The worker-owned collective's employees are paid an hourly wage and agree by consensus on everything from the genres of music played to the menu offered (which features locally grown vegetables and "free range and chemical free turkey").

"It's so wonderful to not have a boss," says Dan Davis, the sole remaining founding member of the Red and Black Collective. "We like to say we exploit ourselves."

But last week, this gathering point for political action became an actor itself, as its employee-owners realized that, in the ultimate clash of coffee cultures, its spiritual nemesis is moving in--right across the street.

Peter Perrin, owner of the old Ladd Meat building a block down the street at 21st and Division, has leased the building--now being gutted and renovated--to Starbucks, which plans to open a 1,500-square-foot coffee shop there in April.

As the news broke last week, it was reminiscent of 2001, when Southeast Portland activists beat back an attempt to open a McDonald's on Hawthorne Boulevard.

Once again, critics of chain retailers are mobilizing for a battle that could affect not only this funky strip of Southeast Division Street, but the esoteric lure of nearby Clinton Street as well.

Charles Kingsley is a veteran of the McDonald's fight and seems to be on his way to leading the fight against Starbucks as well. Kingsley, the co-chair of the Richmond Neighborhood Association, has helped secure more than $2.5 million in grants to promote what's been called the "Division Vision," a city-sanctioned, mass-transit-friendly, small-business-oriented philosophy. He says a Starbucks shop will hurt local businesses and send the community's money elsewhere.

He says he's also miffed because Perrin--who did not return calls--recently denied that Starbucks was being considered for the space, even though city building permits show it's been in the works since October.

"I'd love to think the property owner could wake up and realize that he made some promises that he's gone back on--and it could hurt the local community," Kingsley says.

Starbucks district manager Michelle Cain, who oversees 10 stores in Southeast Portland and Clackamas, says she hopes opposition will dissipate as people become familiar with Starbucks and its policies. She says her stores donate pastries and coffee to local schools and nonprofits, in addition to providing quality jobs with benefits. "We're going to go in and be the best community neighbor we can," she says.

The chain may have rough going. Since a city-sponsored design workshop three years ago, Mark Lakeman, a well-known Portland architect, has helped the "Seven Corners" intersections of 20th and 22nd avenues on Division focus on locally owned, community-oriented businesses. Lakeman says chains siphon money out of neighborhoods, raise rents and drive local businesses under.

Craig Sweitzer of Urban Works, the real-estate brokerage that mediated the Starbucks arrival, says he is not surprised at the opposition but doesn't understand it. "We're not putting in an adult fantasy video here or a gun shop," he says. "We're putting in a coffee shop."

Jean Baker, president of the Division/Clinton Business Association, isn't taking sides but says her group just completed a survey of businesses in the area. "The majority of respondents want small and local," she says. "Starbucks isn't either."

While the looming battle represents a clash of philosophies, it could have real consequences at the Red and Black.

The cafe's member-owners have ridden out the early hard times and paid off most of their $35,000 startup debt, and they've been discussing the idea of taking over management of their building and opening up a larger acoustic concert venue and artist/artisan workshop.

But now, they worry the arrival of Starbucks will undercut their plans. "I think Starbucks will hurt us," says Davis. "I don't know if they'll hurt us out of business, but I don't think it will be a good thing."

SIDEBAR:
A meeting about Starbucks' arrival is planned at the Cascadia Rising Infoshop at Southeast 16th Avenue and Clinton Street at 6:30 pm Tuesday, Jan. 27. More information can be found at portland.indymedia.org , an activist website whose members meet at the Red and Black.
Does anybody know??? 21.Jan.2004 11:42

jlii

If they arrogantly build this will this be the first Starbuck's with metal detectors at the entrance? Will they provide a heated area for shoe removal? And are they planning a way to get that rotten egg smell out of the carpet? Is that fish guts on the floor?

To bad the WW run out of ink before he could mention the worldwide boycott of Starbuck's

"death to coffee shop intellectuals"? 21.Jan.2004 11:54

Red and Black customer

Hey Weekly Reader, you shoulda pointed this out:

"There are books and magazines and anti-corporate propaganda, but also a prominently displayed bumper sticker proclaiming "death to coffee shop intellectuals.""

That's wierd. I've been going there regularly for almost three years and have never noticed this "prominently displayed bumper sticker". It's not all _that_ damn prominent. But I guess Budnick couldn't resist the temptation (or actively sought out) the chance to once again make a subtle, but not meaningless, equation between activists and violence. Jerk.

Change in meeting PLACE but not day/time 21.Jan.2004 12:04

Anti-Starbucks organizer

Glad to see the Willamette Week has given this issue some attention. Just wanted to remind folks that the first organizing meeting for putting together a campaign against a Starbucks in 7 Corners is Tuesday, Jan. 27, at 7:00pm, at People's Co-op (upstairs in their beautiful community room). This is a change in location from the original Cascadia Rising meeting spot (because People's is bigger and at the moment is better equipped for a meeting). This change happened after Nick's press deadline, I guess.

coffee house intellectuals 21.Jan.2004 12:37

don't exist

I've never read anything here that couldbe described as intellectual. In the National Public Radio system, stations that are run by the students are termed "sandbox" stations. This is sandbox media. Leave whomever wants to improve that wretched corner alone. Moreover, when did this drag locale with the longest lights in Portland acquire a name such as 5 or 7 corners? I lived in the area for years and never heard it named. Busllshit sentimentality by kids pounding spoons on the table.

Was there protest on Hawthorne? 21.Jan.2004 13:22

Norm

I wasn't living here then but did people protest either of the two Starbuck's on Hawthorne when they opened? How has having 'big' chain stores there affected the local stores? Other than the increased traffic issue mentioned earlier, I really don't see much of a problem with Starbucks opening on Division.

Why is this front page news? 21.Jan.2004 13:30

Red Suspenders

And the postings calling people to gather on March 20 to stand for peace relagated to a slow demise on the side bar?

Thousands continue to die from the Bush regime's illegal war for profit. Furthermore The United States is becoming an international joke, and we are making new enemies every day.

I know many of the folks in charge of this site are young and idealistic. That's fantastic, without the young and idealistic we wouldn't have this valuable service.

But you must agree saving lives and saving our country is more important than bashing Starbucks.

Reply on the name 7 Corners 21.Jan.2004 14:09

A 7 Corners Neighbor

Hey, the name 7 Corners isn't coming from kids pounding on spoons. I grew up in the neighborhood and it was the name for the area up until the 1970s. Wynnes Tavern was the Seven Corners, the first bar I ever entered (sigh....)

Anyhow, the Neighborhood Buisness Association decided to try and reintroduce the name to all y'all Californians...

Seeing the Forest for the Grass Roots 21.Jan.2004 14:13

Sybil

Red Suspenders, while I sympathize with your desire to see your event be front page news, there are only so many dozens of marches you can have calling people to "stand for peace" before its just not front page news anymore. And while you seem to subltly hint that these efforts are naive by calling us "young and idealistic," what makes you think that holding yet another march for peace is going to change the policies of the Bush war regime? On the other hand, this campaign actually does have the power to stop a corporate juggernaut from chipping away at the community revolution that places like the Red and Black represent.

While you do not seem to think that saving lives and saving our country has anything to do with saving our communities, I think your missing the big picture. The reason our country is in the shape it is in, is because multinational corporations are allowed to run rampant in degrading local and international communities in the name of profits. The less we control our own communities, the more power they have in destroying our country and our quality of life. Furthermore, there are coffee growers in Latin America who cannot survive the kind of practices that giant corporate monoculture farms create, which are largely supported by corporations like Starbucks. Look at what is happening to farmers in Colombia, and you will see that this too is a life or death issue that not only effects our community but people around the world.

As for "don't exist," it seems a life of mainstream media and Starbucks coffee have left you old and bitter. Why not come out of your corporate bubble once in a while, and maybe you'd learn a thing or two about the community you live in...like the names of places in your neighborhood and what a real community looks like. It might help you become a little less cynical about life once you have something meaninful to care about.

Red Suspenders 21.Jan.2004 16:33

Bill

Does not appear to realize that Mar 20 is two months = sixty days away.

Jan 27 is next week, seven days.

It is probably smarter to advertise the Starbucks meeting first.
Unless you wish to sabotage that meeting, of course.

It is probably smarter to bash Starbucks first, too.
Protect your self first from the assassin sneaking up a few steps behind your back.

idea 21.Jan.2004 22:18

Alex

hypotheticaly speaking, could the community of 7 Corners just let the starbucks be build, and then burn it right before they open? Wouldn't that, hypotheticaly, be easier and cause more money loss for Star*ucks? On the other hand, fighting this legally might be more... doable.

history 22.Jan.2004 00:49

repeats

Remember when Nature's was moving onto Division about 10 years ago ? The meetings ? The windows being broken ? the graffiti ? It's now the most profitable Wild Oats store in the Portland area.

so, about the original article... 22.Jan.2004 01:27

indy reader

i've noticed that the discussion on this article, as on the last 1-2 starbucks articles, has -- like when the new seasons in SE portland posts were going up -- is quickly going away from the topic of the original post, and into these wierd limbaugh-esque digressions. could it be that people with financial interest in the starbucks are posting here in a digressionary sort of way? it'd be nice to know... if you're an investor in starbucks, pretending to be a community member, you should just fuck off, or be composted, in my opinion, so we can have an actual discussion here....

IDEA MAN 22.Jan.2004 08:35

VOTER

alex = would you please run for mayor.

Try it - you'll like it! 22.Jan.2004 12:20

Matt troutsniffingsod@yahoo.com

For those people who seem to have trouble understanding what is nice about the 7 Corners neighborhood, I suggest that they step in to Peoples Food Co-op, The Red and Black, and Mirador to see what makes them tick. You might find some anger, disgust and resentment concerning the glitz-a-fying of the block, but at the heart of these businesses are warm, caring individuals who want people to open their minds and their hearts to things like organically grown foods, reusing and recycling, alternate forms of energy ( you know we will be out of petrol sooner than you think! ), fair trade, and honest and clear communication to name a few. Is this bad?


People who show their concern over issues that effect every single one of us should be praised, not berated.

The re-naming of 7 Corners 22.Jan.2004 12:41

Contemporary History Buff

For the record, it was not the Neighborhood Business Association that brought back the name "7 Corners" but the independant coalition of businesses, neighbors and folk who frequent the place called the "7 Corners Localization Initiative" who brought the name back thanks to some neighborhood "old timers" who shared their knowledge.

By the way, here is the official mission of the 7 Corners Localization Initiative, ratified in 2001... think about how Starbucks does not work with this picture.

Article II: Mission

The purpose of the 7CLI is to enhance neighborhood
livability, and demonstrate the best practices of
social ecology. To preserve the character of the area
as an affordable, working class Main Street. To
organize an open process, by which local workers,
neighbors, and those whose custom it is to be here,
may find agreement on improvements to the area that
enhance its unique character, draw on local talent,
and further local rather than absentee or corporate
interests. To make recommendations and also to take
direct action to implement improvements lead by the
people who will be most affected by the changes. To
involve also nearby neighborhood and business
associations, labor unions, social service agencies,
useful and responsive governmental workers, students,
faith communities, and other folks nearby so that our
work is informed by and welcomes the best efforts of
others. To further discussions of the issues of the
day and citizen organization to address the same. To
encourage worker, tenant, and neighborhood
organization to further ecological wisdom, social
justice, and economic democracy.

"Starbucks sucks" 22.Jan.2004 13:38

Neighbor

Has anyone seen the stencil attached to the fence? I was walking by the other day and I saw it out of the corner of my eye. At first I thought it was a real Starbucks sign, but when I looked again I realized it said "Starbucks sucks". Very cool.

not a bad article from ol' Nick B 22.Jan.2004 22:11

Soren Kierkegaard

Gotta give the guy credit here. It can't but help the no-on-starbucks drive.

The quote from the developers is a laugh. They really don't get it at all, do they? "Not an adult fantasy video or gun shop" indeed! Little do they know it, but I'm sure either of the latter would be far more welcome in the neighborhood than a starbucks. They really are clueless where we're coming from.

IDEA MAN(all caps man) 26.Jan.2004 18:27

Rachel

alex, please don't