Coffee & cram
For more than three years, Ed Beazer and Van Lidell had been living their own American dream. The dream turned bad recently when their nightmare moved in next door.
The story begins when Beazer and Lidell left their jobs at Starbucks and opened their own coffee shop in Taylorsville at 5578 Redwood Road called Just Add Coffee.
Beazer took out a home equity loan. They had the support of their wives, family and friends when the store opened.
The first year, they said, was tough. They struggled, lived off their savings and cashed out retirement funds. Gradually, the business became profitable.
"It's picked up so that we're paying all the bills, paying ourselves a little salary and there's a little left over at the end of the month," said Beazer.
Then the nightmare began. Coffee giant Starbucks moved in less than 30 feet away.
"That's why when they first came in, we were like, 'Oh no. Don't take that away,' " Beazer said.
In their former lives, Beazer was a district manager for Starbucks and Lidell managed the company's busiest store. About four years ago, they decided working for Starbucks wasn't as much fun as it used to be.
"It used to be focused on the customer and the employee," said Beazer. "It all turned to focus on sales: Drive sales, drive sales, drive sales at all costs."
The two opened their own store about six months after they started talking about the idea. They spent most of the time carefully scouting out a location.
"We wanted to go where there was no Starbucks," said Beazer. "We didn't want to go, with our first and only location, head-to-head with Starbucks."
They also were concerned about locating too close to another small independent coffee shop.
"We wanted to build our own business, not take business away from somebody," said Lidell.
Beazer and Lidell are not the only people unhappy with their new neighbors. Their customers are angry, too.
"This is their place. They refer to it as their shop," said Beazer. "So when they saw Starbucks, they got mad like it was an offense to them."
One customer brought in a bumper sticker that reads "Friends don't let friends drink Starbucks." So many of their customers wanted to buy one that Beazer and Lidell printed some to give away.
"We just want them to know we're not happy about them coming in and, our customers, they almost want a way to vent their anger, too," said Beazer. "We don't want to start a big war, just a little subtle message that we're not real thrilled that they're here."
Beazer can only speculate why Starbucks, which opens several stores every day, moved so close. He said the chain is "known for their predatory real estate practices."
Starbucks spokeswoman Romonna Tooley responded to questions via e-mail and had this to say:
"Starbucks is humbled by the credit we have received for building and creating the specialty coffee market in which a variety of coffeehouses thrive today. We believe there is room for many coffeehouses in the marketplace that meet different customers' needs."
Just Add Coffee customer Rick James has a different take.
"Does it feel a little creepy? It does. It feels a little creepy, like an enormous entity next to you," James said.
Tooley said there are currently 21 Starbucks stores in Utah and each store creates an average of 16 new jobs in the community where it is located. Starbucks operates more than 11,000 stores in 37 countries worldwide. The international coffee chain opens approximately five stores per day worldwide.
Beazer said they haven't seen any of their regular customers walking into the competition. In fact, a few of Starbucks' customers have seen Just Add Coffee's "locally owned" sign, left the line and come over, Beazer said.
The local aspect of the store is the thing that appeals to people, he said. Except coffee beans, which are purchased out of state, everything else at Just Add Coffee is local. Flavored syrups come from locally owned Meridian and pastries from Granato's. They buy paper products from Salt Lake's Carpenter Paper and use Meadow Gold brand milk.
So far, Beazer said, the Starbucks store hasn't hurt their business, but they are worried.
"We're a little leery that it might hurt our growth long-term," said Beazer. "If people are new to the area, they might start going [to Starbucks]. But, we're hoping that even if they start going there, eventually they'll see us and say, 'Let's give them a try today.' "
Beazer and Lidell hope their local identity coupled with the fact that they know most of their customers by name will keep the business strong.
As customer James points out, "There's more to a coffee place than just coffee."