As more and more Starbucks pop up over Dublin, Edel Hughes considers whether the explosion of the franchise is at the expense of home-grown businesses
When I first moved to Dublin in 2012, there was only one Starbucks in the north city centre. Now there are now seven, none more than 10 minutes walk away from each other. There are two on O'Connell St., practically across the road from each other. Walk across to the Westmoreland Street on the South Side and there are two more here, two minutes from O’Connell Street.
Starbucks has been resident in Dublin since 2005 when its first store opened in our Celtic Tiger heirloom Dundrum Town Centre. It is no longer a novelty to visit a Starbucks on holidays in the US and the drinks no longer seem unusual.
Even DCU has its very own Starbucks franchise which is very popular with staff and students alike. It sells at a reduced price making Starbucks more student-friendly. Every day the queue stretches back to the door all keen to get their fix. The tired, the overworked, the hungover, as long as they exist, Starbucks will be here to meet their needs.
Why the sudden proliferation of Starbucks stores on the North side of the Liffey? Traditionally the less affluent part of the city, one store in the Ilac centre sufficed for quite some time. Now everywhere you turn the green and white signs beckon you towards syrupy over-priced coffee.
I can’t remember what inhabited most of these units were before Starbucks swooped in. But photography blogger and ‘Picture This’ Editor Timi Ogunyemi remembers the store on Lower Liffey Street. He worked for four years in a shop called Counter Propaganda. He feels a creative and unique business has been replaced by something less useful.
"For four years, I worked with the most amazing group of people who had the courage to break the system to create their own version of success. For the most part, we succeeded; we started a movement and we had people talking. Everyone who worked for the company was creative in their own right. Every single person. The store designed and manufactured their own clothes while working with local musicians, artists and collaborated with other designers. It was never easy but it was fun. We worked with smiles on our faces, sold our hearts out and got up and did it all over again. “
Starbucks pride themselves on offering the same experience in all of their stores, from the atmosphere right down to the coffee beans. But this uniformity is replacing niche and individual coffee shops and cafes which can’t compete with the might of Starbucks.
A lot has been said about the decline of the O’Connell Street area. The loss of Clerys has not helped this. Once a proud street, now filled with fast food restaurants and vacant buildings. As well as the two Starbucks, there are two Burger Kings and a McDonalds. The proximity of these restaurants means both sides of O’Connell St. are scarily similar. The cost of renting a property here means only the large companies can afford it. While Starbucks is certainly bringing employment and business to the area, how many Starbucks do we really need?
The North city centre is an important part of our heritage, from the GPO to Moore St. Tourists come here to soak up culture and history every year. If we only offer them the same chain restaurants and coffee shops rather than our own indigenous businesses, we are doing them a disservice. From Brother Hubbard to Panem, we have excellent independent restaurants and coffee shops in the north inner city. Our tourists and locals deserve more of these and more choice.