Starbucks Closing Leaves Bitter Aftertaste

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Workers pull down the signs in front of the Abacoa Starbucks

“It’s such a busy area.” Katie Geary says, perplexed. “I don’t get it.”

Geary is watching her favorite Starbucks closing down, the last few customers filing in and out. She works right across the street at Abby Couture Boutique Salon in the Abacoa Town Center area of Jupiter, Florida.

Geary says customers loved to stop at the Starbucks for a jolt before coming in for appointments.

“Everybody was over there all the time,” she says. That includes Geary, of course, who favors vanilla lattes.

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Today, the place is unusually busy. Managers have turned closing day into “Customer Appreciation Day.” Small drinks are free, one to a customer. Pastries left in the case have been cut small and are being handed out, too. A singer/guitarist is set up with a mic, a small amp and a tip jar to entertain what turns out to be a sizable crowd.

The store was on a list of 600 closures announced by the Seattle-based coffee giant back in July of 2008. The stores like this one were “underperforming,” and the company finally pulled the plug in Abacoa. All the employees have been told they will move to other stores and keep their jobs.

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But a block and a half away, G4S Wackenhut is breaking ground on a new four-story, 63,000 square foot North American headquarters. Wackenhut is part of an international security company that provides guards for schools, nuclear plants and everything in between. The building is scheduled to open in February of 2011.

So Starbucks’ exit comes just 12 months before 225 new caffeine-thirsty workers start making the trip to Jupiter every day. Starbucks declined an interview about the timing of the move. Instead, they sent a press release, which boils down to this: “The timing of specific store closures depends upon a number of factors. We are not able to provide specific details on each store.”

Back at the salon, Katie Geary looks out the window and remarks, “I’m hoping they put something else in there.”

She’s not the only one.

On one side of Starbucks, a sports memorabilia store. It’s been out of business for some time, the windows dark. On the other side, a sign shop. There, the front door is open, and graphic artist Alan Donovan is watching with interest.

The closing won’t have a direct effect on him, he says. He doesn’t depend on the kind of walk-in business the Starbucks can provide. Still, he says, it’s hard on the rest of the shops on the street.

“Anything empty,” Donovan says, “makes people think the place is headed downhill.”

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