With the impending arrival of Starbucks, which will open on a prime corner of Town Square in a space shared with Lee's Tees on September 20th, Jackson's unofficial coffee wars have begun. The downtown is already saturated with outfits hawking varieties of slow-drip and espresso - JH Roasters, Dolce, Cowboy Coffee, Shades, Pearl Street Bagels, Pearl Street Market, The Bunnery, Cafe Genevieve, Wake Up Café, Persephone and Betty Rock all do so - and the arrival of the Seattle-based megachain has stirred up old anxieties and fresh animosity towards towards the company's alleged tactics of slicing the pie a little thinner for local cafes and using their deep pockets to sit out years of losses until most of them close. Planet Jackson Hole spoke with an aggrieved Stefan Grainda, owner of JH Roasters, who was close to signing with Lee Gardner for the 2,000 square foot space before Starbucks officials signed a letter of intent and quickly edged him out. "Here is what I think they did. They look at all the coffee shops around, and they said if we just land in the middle, we take everybody's business. Or part... They can afford to take their time – one year, two, three – to sit tight and wait for some of us to either die or give up."
Starbucks first tried to gain a foothold in Jackson back in 2003, when they offered a $100,000 payment to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and the Chamber of Commerce if they sold a certain amount of beans. Opposition from local business to what Planet JH considered an insider deal eventually scuttled that deal, but Grainda has been aware of Starbucks' interest in Town Square for roughly a year. They do currently maintain a franchise in Albertson's grocery store on Buffalo Way.
Local cafe owners remain partly optimistic thanks to a sophisticated and loyal local coffee market that they think will shun the big brand, which will hurt them in the off-seasons when there's few out-of-town customers around, and also because they believe most tourists are coming to town for an authentic Jackson Hole experience, and are more willing to seek out local brews because of it. This summer Jackson Hole Underground took stock of a number of big-name chains, including KFC, Arby's, The Gap, Polo, Benetton, and J. Crew, that have only survived temporarily around the Town Square.
What do our readers think? Can Jackson's downtown core of roasters survive the commercial onslaught of the green mermaid? Will the town's coffee snobs save the day? Where do you go in town? Light up the comments, people!
· FAIR TRADE: Coffee locals brace for battle from Seattle [Planet Jackson Hole]