Coffee is an institution in the Northwest. You are either a corporate drinker or you support the independently owned operators. If you go both ways, you may be confused or merely don’t care what you are drinking as long as there is caffeine in it. You probably think Pepsi and Coca-Cola are the same things or perhaps your taste buds have failed you. In any event, a large portion of people will be on one side or the other. Their caffeine lines are drawn and they are loyal to where they get their java. It is, after all, how many of us even make it through the day so more than likely we will have a preference on where we go to get this need met.
So what happens to supporters of small business when their beloved independent owned shop sells out to a larger corporation? Do you stay with what you know and love or do you go elsewhere? Devout coffee lovers of this variety may grapple with this very question and debate whether to spend their money elsewhere based on this principle alone. The uproar of Stumptown “selling out” to a New York firm was a clear indication that people felt the end of a coffee era was coming to pass. Sure the owner Duane Sorenson still remains in the picture albeit to quell some of the criticisms of his decision he knew would ensue from this deal. People were shocked and outraged. It even made news headlines here. Is this even normal? It is just coffee right? But here in the NW it really isn’t. It’s much more than that. There is a clear coffee culture established and if you drink it then you are a part of it whether you know it or not because to some extent we are labelled by what brand we drink and what cafes we frequent.
Stumptown represented something more than a coffee shop. It was a pioneer in this town and set high standards for coffee roasting and extracting. It was the little engine that could and was able to stand next to the big coffee players and hold its own. It was Portland’s local coffee and we were proud to call it exclusively ours but now we can no longer do that. I can personally say I was saddened to hear about the sale but this has become the fate of several well-known coffee establishments. Remember Coffee People? Torrefazione? Sold out to Starbucks and I’ve never been back. I’ve met small business owners who have been offered to be bought out by them because in this town you can open right next to one and still be successful. Luckily, Starbucks wasn’t the winning bidder but that doesn’t mean Stumptown won’t suffer the consequences of the same fate. In this instance, bigger doesn’t always mean better.
I’m not sure Stumptown will lose too many customers although the grumblings will linger for a while. The question is, will it lose its hipster style and following and will they add shit like frappuccinos to appease the corporate drinkers? Hasn’t the world been confused enough with what really is a macchiato? The entire country of Italy is collectively laughing at this creation I’m sure of it. (Google what a macchiato really is if you don’t already know). I’ll admit that I am a coffee snob and I’m proud of it. The thought of all this makes me sick to my stomach but we will all have to wait and see what happens. Luckily, I have my favorite place in town so my loyalty will stay with them for now. That is, until they sell out and then I’m screwed.