OPINION: Starbucks – is it a threat or an opportunity for Mount Shasta?

Submitted by Jeff Butzlaff, Mount Shasta

My wife Mary and I are faithful, longtime and forever customers of Suzzanne Mendenhall’s Coffee Brake. This letter intends to convey that things may not be what they initially seem, and provide encouragement to her, her many fellow supporters, and our other unique coffee houses, in an alternative, broader vision of what the added presence of Starbucks could mean. While it may seem counterintuitive, I posit the following factors of an economic dynamic in such as small, quaint, largely tourist based community as Mount Shasta, ideally located both where heaven and earth meet, and right along Interstate 5.

Starbucks Coffee, 6203 Rogers Ave. as seen Wednesday, March 3, in Fort Smith.

First, such communities that are most successful are those that have “hooks,” iconic or “anchor” destination food and/or coffee outlets most likely to attract the interest of passing drivers and their families to check them out, who while they’re at it may also look around the community as well. Folks who may otherwise have never been motivated to do so. Result? More people come to town than otherwise would have, who may then also spread out to all our other extraordinary commercial attractions.

Second, there’s then the question of choice. As yet another choice among Mount Shasta’s several superb coffee houses, especially just as we’re just beginning to recover from the pandemic, Starbucks could understandably be perceived as a competitive threat. However, more people coming into town also means “more choosers,” a larger universe of possible customers not only for Starbucks, but also for the Coffee Brake and all our other coffee houses; i.e. mor of an opportunity than a threat.

Third, such opportunity would therefore consist of each existing coffee house’s additional “capture ration” of that larger universe of potential customers. That’s the way I’ve myself long traveled up and down the entirety of I-5, much more likely to take off ramps where there’s a Starbucks, but also seeking alternative coffee house experiences in each such community often located relatively nearby.

Fourth, such additional competition within the community could actually hep Mount Shasta better compete with other communities, and broaden our overall economic base and actually generate more business, or “capture ration,” fore everyone than may have been the case without the drawing power of a Starbucks, since a fundamental economic tenet is “a rising tide raises all ships,” for “alone we survive, but together we thrive!” Many such now successful communities also initially struggled with, even against, broadening their economic base for fear of losing out to perceived competition, only to ultimately realize it’s the collective drawing power of their overall economy that benefits everyone by offering as many choices to potential customers – whether local residents of tourists – as possible, and sharing in the overall enhancement of their economies and community prosperity as a result.