A triple shot at a latte
One on corner, there are 3 places to get your Starbucks fix
What would Lewis Black say?
The comedian has told audiences of an unsettling experience he had in Houston while walking near the corner of Shepherd and West Gray in the River Oaks Shopping Center:
“There on one corner was a Starbucks. Across the street in the exact same building was another Starbucks … I looked back and forth thinking the sun was playing tricks on my eyes.”
Don’t look now, Lewis: There is a third cafe at that spot selling Starbucks coffee.
The new Barnes & Noble, next door to the Starbucks on the north side of Gray, has an operation called “Barnes & Noble Cafe” that sells Starbucks beverages and displays the Starbucks logo prominently inside. The bookstore opened this week.
(Barnes & Noble Cafe does not accept Starbucks gift cards. The cafe is run by the bookstore’s employees.)
To an outsider, the idea of three cafes clumped together, all serving Starbucks beverages, may seem like overkill. But for the people who go to them, it makes sense.
“I know people say it’s silly — ‘Why don’t you have just one’ — but people use each one in different ways,” said Walter Huybregts, an energy trader and regular at the Starbucks on the south side of Gray.
They are not identical triplets, he noted.
One for work, one for play
The Starbucks on the north side of Gray is the only one with a drive-through.
His favorite, on the south side, is more of a neighborhood hangout, he maintained, while he sees the north side Starbucks as more of a place to study or meet someone on business. When hiring people for his firm, he did the interviews at the north side Starbucks.
Huybregts plans to go to the new Barnes & Noble on weekends to buy the Financial Times and read it with his daughter in the bookstore cafe.
Joe Campbell, a construction company executive, was at the north side Starbucks.
“Its easier to come down Gray and turn right,” he explained.
The first Starbucks in the area, the one on the south side of Gray, opened in 1995, and the second in 2000.
The fact that there are two Starbucks so close to the new Barnes & Noble “was not lost on us,” said David Deason, vice president of development for Barnes & Noble.
“We probably will do a little less volume in the cafe as a result of the two adjacent Starbucks stores, but the cafe will still be a significant part of our business,” he said.
Barnes & Noble has 724 stores nationally, and “this is certainly the closest Starbucks I’ve had near me,” Deason said.
Officials from Starbucks had no comment.
“What does surprise me is that in an environment in which Starbucks is closing stores, they haven’t closed one of those two stores. Both must do very well” in the upscale River Oaks area, said Jeff Green, president of Jeff Green Partners, retail feasibility consultants in Mill Valley, Calif. Cities such as Seattle and New York City also have high concentrations of Starbucks, Green noted.
At a Barnes & Noble preview party Tuesday night, people had already found their way to the cafe to study or work at their laptops and drink coffee. Ainslea Wolfe, a Barnes & Noble barista, said one man arrived with his laptop five minutes after the party started.
Barnes & Noble Cafe customer Jeff Bridge, who was preparing for an actuary exam during the preview party, said he likes the bookstore’s cafe more than a Starbucks, because he prefers to study “where it’s more open.”
Over the sounds of a live band, surgeon Avo Artinyon was doing oncology research on his laptop.
Artinyon moved to Houston from Los Angeles two weeks ago. He just happened to drive by the Barnes & Noble and knew it would have Wi-Fi and coffee, which is all he needs, he said.
In that case, he came to the right corner.