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Oh the horror! Coffeehounds face Starbucks' store closings

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Allison Shneck might have to find a new place to get her morning fix -- a venti espresso with two pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup.

"Only Starbucks knows how to make it the way I like it," said Shneck, 34, of Shadyside. "In the morning, I feel like it's my salvation."

Starbucks last week announced it would close 600 underperforming stores nationwide this year and early next year.

The Seattle-based coffee company has not finalized which stores will be affected, although the company says 70 percent of the stores that will close have opened in the past two years.

The company will notify the locations between this month and March 2009. There are eight Starbucks locations Downtown and many more in other parts of the city and throughout the suburbs.

Susan Kim, 30, of Mt. Lebanon, said closing her regular Starbucks location would be devastating.

"I come to (the Sixth Street and Penn Avenue) Starbucks before work almost every day, so if it closed, it would really hurt," Kim said. "I need a little jolt of caffeine in the morning to get me going."

Others said there are plenty of places to get a cup of joe in the city.

Ken Zeff, co-owner of locally-owned Crazy Mocha, which now has 17 stores open and three under construction, said the closings should boost other players in the coffee industry.

"I don't know how many (Starbucks' locations) will be affected in Pittsburgh," Zeff said. "But it may help us in our pursuit to grow if they're not interested in more stores."

Ashley North, co-owner of Beleza coffeehouse on the North Side, said she didn't think the closings would affect her business since the nearest Starbucks is Downtown, but it could help locally owned businesses.

"If they close, people might be upset because of the convenience, but people will go somewhere else and maybe support local businesses," North said.

Sipping a mocha latte outside the Starbucks in Bloomfield, Danny Rosen, 22, of Oakland said he didn't think one or two Starbucks would be missed much.

"There are so many places to get coffee, but some people are particular. I guess if they need Starbucks that bad, they'll go a little farther down the road or take a different way to work," he said.

Chris Fornacki, 51, of Dormont said he not only goes to Starbucks two or three times a week to get his favorite brew, he often brings his laptop and works from there.

"I like to watch the people come and go, and it's good to get out of the house," Fornacki said.

The faltering economy has contributed to woes created by what many see as Starbucks' too rapid growth.

About 12,000 workers -- about 7 percent of the company's global work force -- will be affected by the closings. The company hopes to transfer most of them to nearby stores.

Wesley Weeks, 42, of Squirrel Hill said some people might think closing a few stores is the end of the world, but it's not.

"I think people are over-caffeinated these days, so they might think it's a big deal," Weeks said. "Starbucks still has more stores than any place I can think of, so closing a few won't matter."

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