So Much for Local Chains: Starbucks Zaps La Boulange

Just as it kinda-sorta seemed that Dick Costolo waited until Rupert Murdoch retired form News Corp. to announce he was leaving his role at Twitter, so too did Starbucks suspiciously wait until San Francisco was giddy celebrating the Warriors’ championship to announce that it was closing down all 23 locations of La Boulange by the end of September.

As Stephanie Tanner would put it, “How rude!”

[jump] Having paid $100 million for the homegrown chain in 2012 in an effort to address all the negative feedback that their in-house pastries sucked, Starbucks took only three years to turn it to dust. (The company will retain the name, just not the independent shops.) It’s not so much that La Boulange is the greatest thing ever — this takedown in the OC Weekly last year is a pretty hilarious read — but that once again, we see globalized capitalism absorbing something local and real into its gastrointestinal tract only to crap it out and walk away. Irrespective of a given company’s products, the world is simply a blander, more homogeneous place without local businesses in it.

The writing was on the wall for this last year, when Starbucks began quietly reintroducing old items back into the lineup. Customers elsewhere in the country complained that things suited to San Francisco tastes were “too fancy.” (This is a big deal when you consider that Starbucks’ faces stiff competition from McDonald’s for the morning rush.)

It seems like for every nice thing Starbucks does, it has to compensate with something shitty. Yes, they pay decently and offer health insurance and stock, but then they make baristas write “Race Together” on your cups and ruin their lives with arbitrary scheduling. Yes, CEO Howard Schultz told that antigay investor to sell his shares, but the pumpkin spice latte is to blame for all the world’s ills. At least this frees up some prime real estate at Cole and Parnassus, Hayes and Octavia, 9th and Irving, and one floor down from where I’m writing this.

[Via SF Business Times]

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