The planned development of a new Starbucks in Turlock is under fire after a nearby coffee shop created an online petition in protest this week.
Alison’s Cafe House, the former location of Christina’s Coffee House located at 219 W. Canal Dr., has taken issue with the plans for a drive-thru Starbucks at 199 W. Canal Dr., across the street from their business. According to Kayleen Hibma of Alison’s Cafe House, management only recently learned that the City-approved development would be a Starbucks. She created a petition against it on Wednesday and has since collected nearly 2,000 signatures.
“We did this petition to bring community awareness to this and get some engagement and support because we don’t need another stinkin’ Starbucks,” Hibma said. “We went to the City to see what petition rights we already had, but they told us that the window for that had already passed.”
Assistant to the City Manager for Economic Development and Housing Maryn Pitt stated that the applicant’s plans to demolish the former Souza’s Furniture building (which has been vacant for about five years) and the adjacent fortune telling business were approved by City staff in May of this year. When the plans were approved, Pitt said, the applicant had not yet stated what businesses would move into the two drive-thru restaurants set to be constructed on the lot.
“This is not unusual, as many center owners and developers may or may not know who will be their tenants at the time they submit for either planning entitlements or for a shell building permit,” Pitt said. “The minor discretionary planning entitlement process included noticing the adjacent property owners as the City always does.”
Nearby businesses were informed of the development, but were not informed that one of the buildings would house a Starbucks because “it has only been in the last few weeks that the Starbucks name has surfaced as a tenant of the proposed redevelopment property,” Pitt stated.
However, development plans for the project on the City of Turlock website in April included detailed illustrations of the proposed Starbucks, as noted in the April 14 Turlock Journal article titled, “More fast food, retail on the way.”
Hibma said the family-owned Alison’s Cafe House is worried about what it will mean for their business once the Starbucks is constructed. She noted that everything in their coffeehouse is made from scratch, meaning drinks and food take longer to make. This, coupled with the number of staff Starbucks will employ, means that Alison’s Cafe House may not be able to keep up with the speed of their corporate competitor.
In addition, it is the opinion of Hibma and the rest of the cafe’s staff that seven Starbucks in Turlock is already too many.
“I just think that especially with everything going on right now, the City really needs to be supporting small businesses that are already struggling. The City of Turlock really needs to support local businesses more than corporate companies who are going to bring in tax revenue,” Hibma said.
Pitt stated that it’s not the City’s role to limit what businesses can or cannot set up shop in Turlock, as long as they meet the City’s zoning requirements.
“Property owners have property rights,” Pitt said. “Larger shopping centers have covenants in the leases that preclude another business of their type from also being a tenant in the center. But there is no legal way to control businesses coming into another adjacent center or parcel because they will affect your business.”
Pitt encouraged ownership from Alison’s Cafe House to voice their concerns at a City Council meeting, but noted that the City is not going to rescind an already-approved planning entitlement. She anticipates it could be early 2022 before the new Starbucks is built and ready to serve customers and suggested that Alison’s Cafe House use the time until then to sharpen their branding skills in order to compete. Or, she said, Alison’s Cafe House could talk to the developer about moving into the location instead.
“I think it’s awesome she has 1,500 fans of her business. Turn them into die hard customers,” Pitt said, noting the recent popularity of Alison’s Cafe House during the pandemic thanks to social media groups like Turlock To Go on Facebook.
Pitt also believes the small, local feel of Alison’s Cafe Shop will help them attract more customers than the chain coffee shop thanks to Turlock’s college demographic, who she believes crave a “unique vibe and experience.”
“I think with 10,000 college students in this town and a dynamic marketing plan, there is every reason to believe that Alison’s will continue to be successful,” she said.
As of Friday afternoon, 1,803 people had signed the petition opposing the planned Starbucks. The petition can be viewed at: https://community.sumofus.org/petition/6aab89ea-a817-4a7f-bb3e-79d8f20d4e2a/?source=fb&fbclid=IwAR271TqqcxHM7zjSxEFDYEbh2FNJcJ4A3e3Jz6BAGQ79X5Tm_5j4mOrtx1A.
“We’re really happy with the responses we’ve gotten so far,” Hibma said. “Everyone who has signed it agrees that we don’t need another Starbucks in this town and that we really need to support our local businesses.”