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.
The coffee shop plans to open its doors at 5:00 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 14. Located in the former Bar TNT and Society Fair space at Penrose Square, the store will be the first Starbucks along the Pike in Arlington.
In addition to the normal menu of coffee, espresso drinks, teas, pastries and sandwiches, the new Pike Starbucks will offer Starbucks Reserve, “a special collection of unique, small-lot coffees.”
“Customers will be able to order their Starbucks Reserve coffee brewed on The Clover Brewing System, which lets you discover new layers and dimensions within a coffee’s familiar aroma, flavor, body and acidity, brewed fresh by the cup,” said a spokeswoman.
Asked why the company chose to finally open a location on Columbia Pike, the spokeswoman said “Starbucks is always looking for great locations to better meet the needs of our customers.”
This isn’t the only Starbucks to open in Arlington this month. Yesterday a new Starbucks opened its doors at the Fort Myer Exchange on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
The vacant space at the corner of the Pike and S. Barton Street — where Bar TNT and Society Fair closed last fall — will be home to the coffee chain, the building’s management told residents today.
“We’re spilling the beans and we want our residents to be the first to hear the new,” said an email to the residents, which was forwarded to ARLnow.com. “Coming summer 2015, Penrose Square welcomes its newest retailer: Starbucks Coffee. Live, Work & Caffeinate at home in your very own Starbucks.”
The location is facing Penrose Square’s public plaza, next to the Giant and a block away from Red Rocks pizzeria. This will be the first Starbucks on Columbia Pike in Arlington; the closest location is in Pentagon City.
Some residents have contacted ARLnow.com, asking about a rumor that Starbucks is planning to open in the former Society Fair space in Penrose Square. Such a location would put it in direct competition with Rappahannock Coffee, the independent coffee roaster and cafe that has been open across the street since 2001.
(Development has been proposed that would force Rappahannock to close or move, although there have been few signs lately of it moving forward.)
A source with knowledge of commercial real estate discussions on the Pike confirmed that Starbucks is at least scouting for a location there.
“I know that Starbucks has been looking for a location on the Pike,” the source told ARLnow.com. “Some of the region’s best agents have been involved and as of last week, some are saying that Starbucks is considering a deal.”
“Penrose is looking for a national brand tenant for the [Society Fair] space but so are others too,” like 3400 Pike and the Halstead,” the source continued. “We have been hearing about imminent deals since November but… nothing materialized.”
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Arlington Ridge Starbucks Opens Tomorrow — A new Starbucks Coffee store is opening tomorrow at 2925 S. Glebe Road, in the Arlington Ridge shopping center. [Twitter]
Melody Tavern Hosts Redskins Event — Melody Tavern (3650 S. Glebe Road) is hosting an event tonight to coincide with the season’s first Redskins pre-season game, against the Buffalo Bills. From 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., Melody Tavern will host a discussion with former Redskins Frank Grant (WR), Roy Jefferson (WR) and Darryl Grant (DT), according to a press release. There will also be a drawing for free Redskins tickets.
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
According to the center’s website, Starbucks will be coming to a 1,650 square foot space next to the Domino’s Pizza restaurant. It’s expected to have an occupant capacity of around 90 people, according to permit applications. The coffee shop is probably at least a couple of months away from opening, since a building permit has yet to be issued.
Also coming to the shopping center is Sweet Frog Frozen Yogurt. A froyo shop founded with Christian principles — Frog stands for “Fully Rely on God” — the store will offer all-natural, self-serve frozen yogurt with a variety of flavors and toppings. The store will be about 1,000 square feet and will be located next to Cafe Caturra.
The location is listed simply as “coming soon” on the Sweet Frog website.
It’s that magical time of the year when birds are flying north, trees and flowers are blossoming, and Starbucks is giving away free scones. Yes, today is Free Pastry Day at Starbucks. The offer lasts until 10:30 a.m., or, more likely, when all the pastries are gone.