Business is reportedly robust at Rappahannock Coffee (2406 Columbia Pike) despite a new Starbucks moving across the street.
The independent coffee shop, which once was the only cafe serving the portion of the Pike around Penrose Square, is so far not seeing negative effects from its newfound competition with the Seattle-based chain, according to owner Gi Lee.
“Our customers are loyal customers,” Lee said.
The new Starbucks opened at 2413 Columbia Pike in the middle of August, worrying some Pike residents that it would hurt Rappahannock and cause it to close. The local coffee shop had faced previous threats of demolition back in 2013 when a developer proposed building apartments on the strip of land where Rappahannock is located.
ARLnow.com observed 17 customers in Rappahannock this morning over a half hour period. At Starbucks across the street, we counted 27 customers over the course of 15 minutes.
Although the chain store sees more customers in the morning, it might not be due to customers defecting from Rappahannock. Lee said most regular customers are still coming in for their morning cup of joe, the beans for which are roasted in-house.
“Everybody likes our coffee,” he said. “It’s very fresh here.”
Rappahannock customer and vocal fan Jason Gooljar said the chain may have attracted new customers from the neighborhoods around the Pike while the local coffee shop kept its old customers. He professed his reverence for the small shop in a Facebook post, which he posted from Starbucks.
“So yes, I’m here at the Starbucks,” he wrote last Wednesday evening. “[Rappahannock] closes early.”
(Starbucks is also open three hours later than Rappahannock, which operates from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Starbucks is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. It is slow in the evening and Lee said he does not anticipate increasing the hours.)
Starbucks and Rappahannock offer two different environments, Gooljar said, and the two stores attract different types of customers.
Rappahannock has a more neighborhood feel, where customers interact with each other and the baristas, Gooljar said. Signs next to tables at the coffee shop encourage people to sit with their neighbors and meet new people.
“This store, people have made some really good friendships here,” he said.
On the other hand, Gooljar said, Starbucks is more individual — people typing away quietly on laptops or grabbing an espresso drink to go while on their commute.
One of the new Starbucks customers is South Arlington resident Kevin Keaty. He was already a loyal Starbucks customer and went to one of the chain’s stores in Pentagon City before the Columbia Pike location opened, he said.
“I really do like their products,” he said.
Horst Lummert, a new Arlington resident, visits both coffee stores and said he has noticed people in the Starbucks at night after Rappahannock has closed. On the other hand, Lummert said he sees about 20 customers in Rappahannock when he stops by in the morning. He has been a loyal Starbucks customer for many years, but he said there is something nice about visiting a local coffee shop.
“I come here because of the wonderful service,” he said. “And the coffee is pretty good.”
The manager of the Columbia Pike Starbucks referred ARLnow.com to the company’s corporate media relations department for comment.