PUBLISHED: 3:49 PM on Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Juneau has mixed reactions on newest coffee shop

Photo by Abby LaForce
  The addition of Starbucks Coffee, is part of Fred Meyer's new remodel.
Battling through the ongoing shopping-cart traffic and hefty renovations at Fred Meyer is somewhat of a chore these days, and the Starbuck's Coffee addition won't help one bit.

On the bright side, sipping a steaming vanilla macchiato while picking out Christmas gear and salad fixings seems pretty exciting.

Chain restaurants and fast food franchises have quite a track record in Juneau; however, coffee is another entity in itself.

In the wee hours of morning, most people crack open an eyelid, and the first thought that runs through their brain is "I need coffee."

While we all have the ability to buy an espresso machine, grind our own beans and brew an espresso, it seems better when a barista hands one over in a paper cup.

Starbucks has a reputation for making signature and innovative drinks, offering quick service at convenient locations and having that special "chain coffee house" taste that's the same every time.

John Mayer, manager at Fred Meyer, said most stores that do a remodel bring in Starbucks as an addition, and because they are a corporate company.

"It's pretty exciting because it's the first Starbucks to open in Juneau, Alaska," he said.

As history repeats itself, one Starbucks usually leads to several offspring. There are numerable stores in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and nearly 3,000 coffeehouses internationally, according to Starbuck's Web site.

Local coffeehouse businesses such as Java Jazz and Heritage Coffee are doing well; new additions keep popping up around town in convenient locations, and offer something distinctly different.

"The speediness is what customers like, and I personally think our customer relationship is what it's about," said manager Lacey Godkin of Java Jazz. She said the only thing that will benefit Starbucks is the shoppers. Java Jazz coffee is roasted and brewed locally with its own special recipe. She said her customers appreciate the drive-though and quick service, and are rather loyal.

Grady Saunders, owner of six Heritage Coffee stores, points out the company roasts its coffee beans to emphasize the individual flavors of their home country, while Starbucks tends to roast everything darker than Heritage.

"We know where were our coffee comes from," he said. Heritage Coffee, a local establishment for 30 years, is a supporter of the community and that will never change, he said.

Heritage's Second Street Café is expanding by doubling in size, adding bench seating and outdoor patio seating, wireless Internet and computer access, a gelato stand and serving food including mini pizzas. Saunders said he hopes to be finished before the legislative session starts.

"I'll put our product up against Starbucks any day; we have a far better product," he said.

Juneau's local espresso joints satisfy customers by their fast service and consistent product. Several of the Heritage Coffee locations offer great ambiance that's perfect for meeting friends or quiet study time, which Starbucks doesn't offer because it's a kiosk placed on the outskirts of a bustling grocery store.

Local opinions vary from optimistic to negative concerning Starbuck's addition to Fred Meyers.

"I think it's good that it's coming, but the location is harder to get to," said Kim Paris, 35.

Daniel Shurwood, 23, who recently moved to Juneau said, "I hate Starbucks, actually; it's a lower 48 thing."

Leo Sims, 30, said Starbucks is a good thing to bring to Juneau to lower prices, but it isn't competition for Heritage.

"I think true Juneauites will stick with Heritage after they get that initial 'new thing' out of their system," he said.

At the opening of Starbucks Monday, Dec. 11, people most likely will be lined out the door vying for a frothy Frappuccino and agonizing the newly trained baristas. The community will have to see what Starbucks adds to Juneau's coffee niche, and judge for themselves to whom they will loyal.