Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Coffee Changes Brewing in Atlanta

Never one to simply repeat news, I wanted to share my thoughts on recent coffee developments.

As a non coffee drinker, my thoughts relate purely to the business and real estate aspects of recent

Brooklyn Center, Minnesota-based Caribou Coffee announced earlier this week it plans to close 80 locations nationally, and will convert another 88 locations to sister chain, Peet's Coffee & Tea.  Both coffee chains were purchased in separate transactions last year by German private equity group Joh. A. Benckiser.

Emeryville, California-based Peet's Coffee & Tea is credited by some with creating the framework on which Howard Schultz and his two partners based Starbucks.  Both coffee houses started on the west coast, Starbucks in Seattle and Peet's in the Bay Area, but Peet's predates Starbucks by five years having been founded in 1966.

Today Peet's has nearly 200 locations, mainly on the west coast while Starbucks has over 20,000 locations, worldwide, some mere blocks apart.

Reports are that after the merger, Caribou Coffee will be made up of 468 locations across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Western Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina, Denver, and ten international markets.

Locally, twelve Caribou Coffee locations will be affected. Four locations will close entirely while the remaining eight will convert to Peet's.

Caribou has closed locations in Dunwoody, Edgewood, midtown, and most recently in Woodstock, among others in recent years, leaving them with the rather small presence of the twelve current locations.  Interestingly, in my research for this post, I found a June 2011 article from the AJC where Caribou's CEO Mike Tattersfield said he sees Atlanta as "a major growth market in the near future, with the potential for 100 locations in the metro region in the next five to ten years."

I was able to learn the locations that will close entirely and based on my own experience and knowledge of the areas, at least two surprised me.  Caribou's North Druid Hills at LaVista Roads location, near Toco Hills as well as their Norcross location at The Forum, are both slated for closure April 14th.  The Toco Hills location shares a former Pollo Tropical with Einstein Bros. Bagels, and despite competition from literally all sides (Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks, Bagel Palace, Goldberg's, Atlanta Coffee Roasters), seemed to always be busy.

A third location on Johnson Ferry Road near Merchants Walk in East Cobb will close as well another on Powers Ferry Road in Marietta.

Among the eight locations scheduled to be converted to Peet's over the next "12-18 months" are shops in Buckhead on Peachtree Road and another on Northside Drive in addition to one in Sandy Springs on Roswell Road, just north of Wieuca.

Other Caribou locations slated for conversion to Peet's include downtown in Peachtree Center and SunTrust Plaza, at 10th Street & Piedmont Avenue in midtown and a pair of outlets at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Previously shuttered Caribou Coffee shops have become a variety of businesses. 

In Dunwoody, the former Caribou at Perimeter Place is today a Five Guys while their former Edgewood Retail shop recently reopened as an Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint. The chain's former midtown location near Ansley Mall is now home to HOBNOB, a neighborhood tavern.  Given the logistical complexity of their Toco Hills location, what should replace it, or any of their other three area shops slated for closure?

Atlantans have a seemingly constantly dwindling number of local shops to choose from.  I posted news last month that Everybody's Pizza was closing their Emory Village location and with it, Steady Hand Pour House, who was subletting, would also close.  April 24th will be their last day though they have pledged to reopen elsewhere in the future.

Aurora Coffee, another ITP favorite once had three locations in Ansley, at Monroe Drive & Piedmont Avenue, Virginia-Highland and Little Five Points on Moreland, but come May 21st, the city will be left with just one.  A number of years ago their Ansley location closed and was replaced by a Smoothie King and now their Virginia-Highland location will close apparently because their landlord "wanted to go in a different direction."  Given the shops neighbor is a cheesey Yogli Mogli froyo shop, I cringe when I think what may replace this cute neighborhood gem.

The good news, Aurora's owners, husband and wife Eric Levin and Madonna Hill have signed a long term lease for their Little 5 Points location and plan to expand their business in "other directions."

Other recent notable local coffee shop closures include San Francisco Coffee in Poncey Highlands, replaced with HD1, a struggling gourmet hot dog shop and Library Coffee in Brookhaven, replaced with The One, a sushi restaurant.

*San Francisco Coffee Shop did relocate nearby

Where is your favorite place for a cup of Joe in Atlanta?  Do you favor chains like Starbucks or local shops like Aurora, Dancing Goats and REV?


Anonymous said...

My favorite place WAS the front porch of Aurora in VaHi. Shame that it is closing. I place blame solely on the ridiculous froyo shop next door and the hordes of middle school children it attracts.

I hope the VaHi Aurora becomes a tattoo parlor or a head shop.

Erik from the Burbs said...

I like Caribou Coffee. I hate to see them leave.
On the flipside,I really dislike Starbucks.
I like to see 7-11 come back to Atlanta Area and compete with RaceTrac & QuickTrip when it comes to coffee.

Intown since 84 said...

I can assure you that San Francisco Coffee Shop in Poncey-Highland is NOT closed - I was in there yesterday. Perhaps you're thinking of the fact that about two years ago, that SFCS moved about 200 feet into a storefront next door, and HD1 (a hot dog place) moved into the space they occupied initially.

Anonymous said...

Poncey San Fran didn't close -- it merely moved next door.

Atlantan99 said...

@Anons RE: San Fran Coffe,

You are both very right. I got a little carried away and failed to mention that while San Francisco Coffee closed in that location, they did relocate closeby.

Thanks for reading the site and for the comments.

Anonymous said...

library coffee was the best local coffee house in the city.

Anonymous said...

Heard Caribou in talks to be exclusive provider of coffee in all Chick-fil-A locations. Currently in pilot in Philly. Will retain brand as well.

Atlantan99 said...

@Anon RE: Caribou in CFA,

That would be HUGE! Can't imagine it would be good for the Caribou brand though to be associated with CFA given its image problems. Howard Schultz of Starbucks has been so vocal on gay rights, Caribou may shoot them self in the foot if they do this. On the other hand, it may be a damn good partnership that will allow them to penetrate markets they might not otherwise have been able to do.

In related news, Caribou Coffee has apprenty ditched plans that would have places mini shops inside redesigned J.C. Pennney stores.

Thanks for reading the blog and for the comments.

Anonymous said...

While I, of course, hate to see local coffee shops closing, I by no means see the local scene dwindling.
Yes, SHPH closed, but they are looking for places to reopen and even expand their business.
Octane has expanded, Condessa Coffee is great, and Dancing Goats was the first business to occupy PCM.

Carl said...

Oh, Caribou, it's past time for you to go. And Peet's: WOW! What an amazing upgrade.

Since you're the Local Retail Historian™, I wondered if you're aware of any chain that's had more store closings...and is still in business in this market. Much like Blockbuster, there could be a whole post just on repurposed 'bous.

I admit I was surprised about Toco closing, as it does indeed appear to be one of their busier locations here, but it is the last remaining hybrid that has a complicated relationship in shared space with an entity that isn't allowed to sell espresso (just as 'bou isn't allowed to sell bagels there). Perhaps that doesn't fit well with Peet's plans. Having lived in this area for many years, I'll admit I always liked that 'bou location better than the newer SBUX across the street, even if I've never much cared for 'bou products.

One aspect that's confusing about the AP report on which you based part of this news: North Carolina. Prior to making any announcement about GA, they'd already announced that NC stores would be converted (which got me all excited about GA possibilities). The newer report, I would presume, mistakenly includes NC as a 'bou market, unless they've just done an about-face.

Now, for all those closed or repurposed locations. How many can we list? You already mentioned what I saw as the original (Piedmont & Monroe), back when that was the coffee corner, back before 'bou embarked on the awful "lodge" interior redesign, back when SBUX would not have considered being at Ansley.

How about the space that was essentially built for 'bou, at 1784 Peachtree? It opened as yet another hybrid, primarily 'bou but sharing open space with Big Sky Bread (RIP) (as opposed to sharing the building à la Toco). The drive-thru window is still there, albeit not in use.

Another open-design hybrid location was at 832 N Highland, which had 'bou on one side and Highland Bagel (RIP) on the right.

Another hybrid former El Pollo Loco on Holcomb Bridge, with a very similar if not identical design to Toco, was occupied by 'bou and Melvyn/Einstein's. I forget what is there now, if anything. A diner?

Let's not forget they had a 'bou in the dreaded food court at Perimeter, again long before SBUX was apparently willing to permit stores inside malls.

And of course, there was the 'bou that took the place of Raja Indian Restaurant, having the gall to open directly across from the second SBUX in the market. That didn't prove to be a good concept, as it closed relatively quickly to become one of the first Melvyn & Elmo's and is now Moe's (wish I could say RIP).

I know there were others. Anyone?

Oh, speaking of Highland Bagel, they once had a location downtown (either in the Flatiron or more likely, the building just to the south), back when everyone was gearing up for the big post-Olympics takeoff of downtown that never quite happened. Who else was in that same block? Aurora! That was location #4 for them.

Carl said...

Oh, and in the whole Aurora discussion, I haven't seen one important aspect mentioned: without them, Batdorf & Bronson wouldn't have opened a roasting plant here. Imagine life without DG cafés, local coffee purveyors that offer Batdorf, and of course the numerous restaurants and retail establishments that exclusively serve Batdorf.

Speaking of coffee history, I still really miss Urban Coffee Bungalow, a Fifth Group business before they created that brand, which had three locations: the original on Piedmont across the street from Ansley Park (and very near the former coffee central corner occupied by 'bou and Aurora), Peachtree Hills, and the lower level of the High Museum of Art. They had really excellent sandwiches, baked goods, and probably the first white chocolate mocha in town (and it was quite good). The back porch at the Piedmont location was awesome!

Anonymous said...

It should also be noted the original location of San Francisco Coffee Roasting Co. is still going strong after almost 20 years at 1192 N. Highland Avenue. With the coffee beans being roasted in the same building, there is no faster bean-to-cup time anywhere in the ATL. And the abundant parking is a rare exception in the Virginia Highland neighborhood.

Carl said...

Sorry for the multiple posts, but it would also be remiss if I didn't point out that SHPH is closing out its Emory Village life in a space that was originally yet another closed 'bou (followed by Inman Perk, Method, and Octane).

Anonymous said...

I used to work for Barnie's Coffee & Tea back in the early 90's before there were any Starbucks in Atlanta at all, let alone Aurora, Caribou or many of the independents that are out there now. Barnie's had locations at most of the area malls: Lenox, Perimeter, Cumberland, Northlake, North DeKalb, Shannon Mall, Gwinnett Place, Town Center and Underground. They also had another Georgia location at Macon Mall. They were pretty big back then and were instrumental in educating Atlanta coffee drinkers that there is more to coffee then a "Frinch Vanilla Cappacheeno" from QT. And ultimately Starbucks crushed them. Just like they are crushing Caribou now and many others. That's what you get in this Starbucks, Walmart, McDonalds and Macy's world where creativity and competition is run out of town by the overwhelming sameness and uniformity of mega chains.

Atlantan99 said...

@Carl, now you're making me look bad. You out-memoried me (likely due our difference in age) I know 832 N. Highland as Osteria 342. The 1784 Peachtree location I recalled being a Lettuce Souprise You which I conveniently forgot shared space with Caribou!

Great recall of the bagel and coffee scene in Atlanta in the 90s!

Thanks for reading the site and for your insights!

Atlantan99 said...

@Carl, I never remember there being a Caribou at Perimeter but do recall there being a Barnie's in the first level space that today is a Starbucks.

Atlantan99 said...

@Anon RE: Barnie's,

I have the same feelings! Barnie's had locations everywhere! I remember going to their Lenox Square North DeKalb, Northlake, Gwinnett Place, Perimeter and dare I say Underground locations as a kid. Their former Lenox location is currently home to some dumb Temptations (crappy/ cheap jewelry) and I dream of the day something worthwhile replaces it. I searched for the company online and they seem to be nearly entirely in the wholesale business these days dba Barnie's CoffeeKitchen.

Thanks for the comments and for your readership.

Anonymous said...

Caribou at Perimeter was located where Orange Julius is now, before Yoforia was there. The Barnies location at Perimeter actually was about half the size of the current Starbucks initially when it opened in place of a Coffee Bean Barn. There was a Blimpie next door which closed and they expanded into it. The Barnies at Lenox was originally in the food court where Subway is now, and then it moved upstairs to the upper level next to the current Bloomingdales, before becoming Lindt chocolates, which also closed. The Barnies at Gwinnett, NorthDeKalb and Town Center were originally House of Almonds, and they bought out the leases and with minimal renovations, converted them to Barnies. There is a current Barnies location at Perimeter attached to the front of Macy's on the upper level mall entrance. It is franchised and has minimal offerings besides beverages.

Jenna S. said...

Wow, impressive ATL coffee shop info in this post -- and all of the commentary. Great article, as usual. I am surprised that no one mentioned ChocoLatte as one of the other remaining Atlanta chains (and my personal fav). I am also surprised to hear that the Toco location of Caribou is closing. I literally can never get a seat there. That one might be a mistake. Curious to see what will become of that space...

Anonymous said...

Speaking of barnie's, they seem to making a comeback (!) ... I went into mourning over the loss of my all time favorite whole bean coffee, barnie's blend. - not to be confused with barnie's special blend which is not as good IMO. I've noticed on trips to orlando more freestanding and mall based barnie's over the past two years.

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