Having worked at Starbucks in a previous life, it had always occurred to me that it seemed the market was somewhat over-saturated. Here on the left coast, there was nearly a Starbucks on every corner and when you add in all the other locations you could get some fine java from, such as Cafe Artigiano, Blenz, Tim Horton’s and the like, the competition is fierce.

Starbucks Sign

Starbucks Sign – courtesy of Darren Larson

Therefore, I’m not surprised that the current economic downswing has resulted in Starbucks closing stores here in Canada. It does shock me that the first one is here in Richmond.

As reported on cbc.ca the Starbucks located at Aberdeen Mall will close on Wednesday. Based on the article, staff were only advised of the closure within the past week and I can’t imagine what it must feel like for them. That being said, I’ve heard from a couple of former colleagues that the “partners” (as staff at Starbucks are called) have been offered positions in other locations throughout the district if it suits them.

If I were to be a guessing man, this will likely be the first of a number of closures throughout the Lower Mainland – let alone Canada. I’ve always been a fan of the coffee, but would point out that the service you get today is far different than the Starbucks experience back in the day. I strongly feel that the company went the wrong direction by focusing on consistency instead of the experience. The old bar partners used to pull shots not only added character to the experience, but the drinks were far better than the “cleaner” consistent shot that one gets out of the automated versions. And don’t get me started on how milk is steamed as the automated thermometer and shutoff on these new bars makes it too easy for the barista to not care about what’s going on – resulting in a poor tasting beverage that has little to no good foam.

I think as a whole, Starbucks needs to re-evaluate it’s true purpose in the market and look to make the experience more like the “third place” it once was, as opposed to the place that just happens to serve a typical caffeine fix.

Okay. I feel better now.