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Here's the skinny: the Starbucks coffee shop in downtown Missoula is slated to close. The three-year-old business in the Trailhead building is the only one of the five Starbucks in the area that will shutter its doors owing to the global financial slowdown, which (apparently) no amount of caffeine has been able to cure. Last summer the company announced it would close more than 600 stores in the U.S.; this winter, it announced it would close an additional 300 locales in the U.S. and abroad, due to lackluster performance.

Downtown Missoula Starbucks Grinding to a Halt

Here’s the skinny: the Starbucks coffee shop in downtown Missoula is slated to close. To date, the three-year-old store in the Trailhead building is the only one of the five Starbucks in the area that will shutter its doors owing to the global financial slowdown, which (apparently) no amount of caffeine has been able to cure. Last summer the company announced it would close more than 600 stores in the U.S.; this winter, it said it would close an additional 300 locales in the U.S. and abroad, due to lackluster performance. More recently, it was announced that an additional 200 stores in the U.S. would close.

“Starbucks has been looking at all parts of the business to manage our cost structure and align the organization in the most efficient way possible. Our priority during this time is to prepare for the continued uncertainty in the economy and ensure we have a strong foundation to support our long-term goals,” a Starbucks representative explained in an email.

At neighboring coffee and bakery hotspot Break Espresso, baker/barista Chad Preble said employees felt somewhat vindicated by the news.

“We were pretty thrilled,” Preble said. He called it a vote of confidence in small local businesses, which can be dominated or done in by corporate competitors. Preble noted, however, that Break never really saw its customer base diminish after Starbucks arrived. “I think everyone that came here, kept coming here,” he said.

Inside the downtown Starbucks, the staff was less forthcoming. Media inquiries could only be answered by a Starbucks Coffee Company district manager or a store manager at the Starbucks at South Reserve Street, an employee said. The store manager at South Reserve Street, in turn, directed this reporter to the Starbucks media hotline. The hotline representative would not answer questions about when the Higgins Starbucks would close or how many employees would be affected.

She sent the following information in an email:

“Recently, partners (employees) in approximately 200 under-performing stores in the U.S. were notified that their stores will be closing. Some of these locations will be closed by the end of April, with the remainder closing by the end of the fiscal year. Partners impacted in international markets will be notified of closings in accordance with appropriate local labor laws and custom specific to their country … All affected stores will be closed by the end of the fiscal year. However, we are not able to provide specific details on each store.

The decision to close stores and impact partners is extremely difficult. On average, each Starbucks store has about 20 full-time and part-time positions. We recognize the impact this has on many members of the Starbucks family who have directly contributed to our success over the years. The contribution, spirit and energy of these partners will be missed.”

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7 comments

  1. When you lose a Starbucks, is the Post Office far behind?

  2. The character of Downtown Missoula’s various coffee shops is strong and satisfying–like good coffee. The Break, Worden’s, the Butterfly, the Catalyst, Liquid Planet–all have their loyal, happy clientele. And a little ways away, there is Bernice’s and Le Petit. Like many things in Missoula, it is an embarrassment of richness. And all local names. Gotta like that.

  3. Good. I’m glad to see it go.

    I will happily patronize Starbucks in places without good, local cafes, or when I’m traveling and in an unfamiliar area, but I thought it was pretty sleazy for them to open up three doors down from a fantastic local establishment.

  4. Do any of these other local options offer employees health and dental, 1lb of free coffee each week, stock purchasing and stock granting – all for 20 hours per week? Some big business isn’t a bad thing when it gets down to the little people. And though the location was probably a mistake, I’ve found service there to be better than local places. Regardless of how you like your coffee, it’s still putting Missoulians out of work.

  5. Pablohoney,

    It may suck for a few employees of the Starbucks Corporation let go now, but unless there are people who will choose to go without any beverage, scone, or whatever they went to Starbuck’s for, long-term job impact likely is neutral at worst. With far more revenues staying in the community if most of those folks choose an independent instead, more Missoula jobs are created in the long run.

    I’m not fluent enough to explain the economics, but this group, based in Bozeman, has lots of info on the economic benefits of local ownership and job creation: amiba.net

  6. I have mixed feelings about all of this. I wish Starbucks hadn’t tried their luck downtown. They weren’t needed or really even wanted there. And now they have employees that need to find work. Not good.

    I prefer to buy my coffee locally, but I do wish that our local businesses were able to provide benefits comparable to those offered by companies like Starbucks.

  7. I’m not supporting Starbucks, but I think the point about good employment practices rings true: the Break, and many other local establishments, treat their employees horribly. it’s a disgrace that we allow our local service industry to be subjected to such bad employers. furthermore, competition is good–and our local coffeeshops clearly competed well.