Scott Hodge


Starbucks VS. Indy

Sep 14, 2005

Lately, I’ve been taking advantage of a small independently owned coffeehouse in our area instead of one of the three Starbucks that I tend to work from pretty regularly.  As I sat in the "indy" coffeehouse, I couldn’t help but make a few notes on the differences between their environment and the typical Starbucks environment.  Here’s my notes:


Starbucks = Predictable Music (Sbux satellite radio)   
Indy = Unpredictable Music (Different all the time)

Starbucks = T-Mobile WiFi ($29.99/mo)
Indy = FREE WiFi

Starbucks = Coffee beans roasted 2,000 miles away
Indy = Coffee beans roasted six feet away

Starbucks = Looks the same everywhere you go
Indy = Unique and lots of character

Starbucks = Starbucks advertisements & corporate art
Indy = Local art on the walls

Starbucks = Feels "corporate"
Indy = Feels authentic

Of course, the independent shops can’t beat the convenience of Starbucks when it comes to locations and the consistency of their coffee.  Last month, I traveled to three major cities and every time I stopped at a Starbucks I knew that I could count on the consistency of their coffee no matter where I was at.

So – there are advantages AND disadvantages to both.  Don’t worry – I’m not abondoning Starbucks, but if I have an option between an indy coffeehouse or Starbucks – the indy is going to win (most of the time.)

Go ahead – weigh in!  What do you think?

19 Responses to “Starbucks VS. Indy”

  1. dave says:

    I am in complete agreement. I love the atmosphere of the indy coffee shop. I also have yet to find an indy shop that doesn’t have excellent coffee…and you can’t beat free wireless internet.

  2. Ben Boles says:

    I love local coffee shops. The small businesses, mom and pop type joints that directly benefit your community. I like Starbucks, especially the Java Chip Frap, but I am still disturbed by the story linked on Terry Storch’s blog call “Starbucks Hate Children”. Another thing that bothers me about Startbucks is that they have the cash to provide free wifi, but they charge a huge fee but the little shop offers it free. Long live the local coffee shops.

  3. Starbucks is that known quanity that I can count on regardless, of where I might be, Denver, Albuquerque, Vail. The local “indy” coffee shops are certainly an eclectic group, that sometimes vary widely in offerings. Yes I certainly feel more comfortable, in these local places, and it makes me feel better about supporting the local business.

  4. David says:

    There was a place in Tulsa like that – Cafe Bona. It was family owned and operated. The owner made all the pasteries her self and her kids ran the store. They had free wifi and they had computers there for you to use if you didn’t have one yourself. They went out of their way to make the experience. It was an awesome place. Sadly, the place was sold about 2 years ago to another group and it hasn’t been the same since.

  5. Your comparison is fine when you consider those indy coffeeshops that happen to be great, but here’s a rendering of the indy shop that is just as likely, just on the other end of the spectrum:
    Starbucks = Predictable Music (Sbux satellite radio)
    Indy = Just plain bad music or maybe no music at all.
    Starbucks = T-Mobile WiFi ($29.99/mo)
    Indy = No WiFi Option
    Starbucks = Coffee beans roasted 2,000 miles away
    Indy = Ditto.
    Starbucks = Looks the same everywhere you go
    Indy = nothing distinguishing it from any other coffee shop
    Starbucks = Starbucks advertisements & corporate art
    Indy = plain walls with no art
    Starbucks = Feels “corporate”
    Indy = Feels cheap
    I just felt that your Starbucks VS “random indy coffeshop” felt mre like Sarbucks VS “only the best indy coffeeshops”

  6. Mark Pryor says:

    I would def go “indy” if my experience was like yours, but too many times mine has been like Jesse’s. I prefer the atmosphere of the indy, but like the consistency of starbuck’s coffee. I definitely think starbucks is getting way too commercial, but…so is apple and I’m sittting here pounding keys on my new powerbook. :-)

  7. Abefroeman says:

    How dare you Scott! My wife is a Barrista and I feel totally betrayed. She relies on customers to pay her salary and all the awesome benefits. You start going to an indy and before you know it you wont be shopping at Wal Mart anymore either. It is obvious the end is near!

  8. Rachel says:

    Scott, I hope you know to ignore him, he can be such a dork. I grew up working in “Indy” coffee houses in England and I loved the atmosphere and everyone knowing everyone else. Of course the Starbucks where I work we know everyone by name there too. I guess it’s a personal thing.

  9. martin Leeuwner says:

    Right there with you Scott. I go to a coffee place just up the street and it’s exactly as you described. Wifi, laid back, art all of it. Definately better customer service.
    I don’t think Betsy would want to catch on though. She loves Sbux!

  10. Bill Whitmore says:

    Good observation. I don’t like to go to Starbucks to work. It is way to loud. I will actually go to Fellowship Church, or Irving Bible and use their Free WiFi. But if I want to talk to the Friendliest people up at 6:00 AM I go to Starbucks! It doesn’t matter if I am in Dallas, Chicago, Flower Mound, Irving they are all excited to work their. Scott if you haven’t read this book check it out.
    Pour Your Heart Into it. – Howard Schultz.

  11. Great post! Indy all the way.
    There’s a coffee shop downtown (mpls) called the Coffee Gallery. Free wi-fi, radio stuck on 89.3 (local minnesota public radio indie station), right underneath a writing workshop, etc. Cool atmosphere. I think one of the barristas might be suicidal, but I hope not. It’s a great place.
    Nordaggio’s in Tulsa was always good, too, if it’s still there.

  12. heather says:

    I know what ya mean about the differences in the corporate and non-corporate coffee shops. I guess I appreciate “indy” coffee shops more because they are able to think outside of the lines of corporate policies and able to create an environment suitable for that specific location and for the people. I of course still like Starbucks too, but I hope they don’t put the smaller coffee houses out of business.

  13. Brian Bowen says:

    Man I love coffee… and I enjoy sitting in the coffee place drinking it even more. My boss calls me some sort of transplanted seattle bohemian surving in middle Georgia area. Five years ago… you couldn’t find a coffe shop in this part of Georgia. Atlanta and Athens were the only options, and then it was Starbucks or Caribou Coffee (I’m definately a caribou fan). I definately prefer the indy shops over both… IF they are good. We had two or three open up here in small town Georgia, the coffee was good, but I felt like I was sitting in a 9 dollar hair cut place instead of a coffee shop. Finally though, we do have a couple local places… wonderful coffee, music, free wifi, local art… its great. But people do look at me funny sitting outside on the porch in the middle of summer drinking a tall breve. But I’m still thankful… there’s more and more Starbucks showing up along the interstate when a local place probably wouldn’t make it.

  14. Luke Dusek says:

    This is a tough call . . . both the local coffee shop and Starbucks have differing good and bad qualities. There are days that Starbucks fits my mood and needs best and there are equal days that the local shop does the same. I am dissapointed in the charge for WiFi. I think any coffee shop could increase business by providing free WiFi. How much money are they really making off this anyway? Is it worth the cost of losing customers? If I need the WiFi, I am going to the coffee shop where I can get it free.

  15. David Rudd says:

    unfortunately, starbucks arrived and drove my indi joint out of business… hoping a new one will start up soon.

  16. Hanna Cooper says:

    For a handy online index of locally owned coffee shops nation-wide (add your favorites or search by zip code when you’re on the road):

  17. Mark says:

    I was going over my budget with my wife today, and starbucks is turning into a car payment… I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s so easy for me to put a bible study together at my local starbucks… But the wifi, and venti non-fat carmel macchiatto’s are adding up… O well we’ll see… my budy bob told me that the mom and pop coffee shop a couple of miles up the road has free WiFi… Good post!

  18. Pam Hlady says:

    Does anybody know where Indy Coffee moved to? I went back for a visit after being gone four years and the building was knocked down and there was no listing in the yellow pages. Did they just disappear? they had such a great little coffee house!

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