“Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again…”
~Bob Dylan.

I don’t know why but those lyrics have been in my mind and heart of late. I’m sure as we get to spend some more time together you’ll understand that I have a kind of spirituality I’ve only ever been able to label as “ala carte” – I genuinely believe that what we believe has an impact on our lives, and that the way we choose to believe about things is entirely up to us. Right or wrong is irrelevant. Whatever you believe or don’t is how you choose to get to “god” or not. Anyway, in my personal belief system, when I have these kinds of experiences… the same words and phrases coming up time and again in my life, I believe that’s my higher self / subconscious attempting to guide my over-analytical mind to move toward something by drawing those words / thoughts / phrases / experiences to me.

All of my life I’ve shied from confrontation and conflict, feeling a better manifestation of my higher self exists in a quiet voice. But with Bob Dylan in my head, I’ve been thinking lately it might be time to take a stand. Times, they are, a changin’.

This little deal has gotten to be a BIG deal in my little community. It’s a little deal. It really is. There are a LOT bigger deals going on in our community that are not getting the kind of attention this little deal is. Maybe that’s because this is something we can disagree on with out killing each other. (Or can we?) Maybe it’s because it is a thread to a more fundamental argument about the kind of place we are building here. (That’s the thing that gets me about it, but more on that in a minute.) But I digress. Why this little thing has gotten so big is not really the point of all I have to say here. And I want to add one other defense-of-self disclaimer – I don’t quite understand yet why I want to make my opinion and position on this topic known. But if Bob Dylan says I should, then you’re damn right I will.

Here’s the BIG little issue. Starbucks recently bought out Seattle’s Best. Which meant that one of our community’s famed historic buildings and hotel – the Hotel Alex Johnson – had their ground-floor coffee shop changed over to a Starbucks branded property. To begin with, this change meant little from the outside… a tasteful black canopy with the brand name and logo was hung over the main and 6th street entrances. No big deal. And then the Starbucks logo went up on the corner of the building on the top floor.

BIG deal. The community was outraged. Threw a fit. (I like to think I did not throw a fit. But I was quite unhappy with the development.)

Over the course of the ensuing weeks teams were mobilized, petitions were signed, and positions were weighed in on Facebook and all over the “public” sphere. The hotel owners have agreed to take down the sign though there is rumor it is only being moved and that we, the public, will like the new location less. I thanked them for listening to the public. And then I saw the first comment that inflamed me.

{Paraphrasing here} “Geeze, it’s a good thing you guys don’t live in a big city with a Starbucks on every corner. That would be traumatic! I appreciate people who take strides to try to make our community a better place! The growth of downtown is not something that has come from complainers, but positive people with goals.”

The comment I wanted to put up on Facebook: “Yes! Thank you! I am SO glad I don’t live in a big city. I live in Rapid City, South Dakota. I am all for making strides for growth but I hardly think a Starbucks on every corner quantifies a successful community. My goal is to brand our community as one full of art and culture where locally owned businesses are the boasting point, not corporate sprawl.”

Instead I did the dishes and some grocery shopping to cool off, attempted to squash my desire to fire back, and went on with my weekend.

Then, at a breakfast meeting this morning. {Again, paraphrasing here}; “I don’t care they put up a giant logo. Not at all. I can’t believe they had to get 300 signatures to do it. There’s a lot of other issues in our community that need attention.”

What I said in response {paraphrasing}; “I agree completely that there are other issues we should get up in arms about. But I’m glad the sign is coming down.”

What someone else said in response to the original comment {paraphrasing}; “So, you wouldn’t care if they put a McDonalds logo up there?”

“Nope. Don’t care. I don’t think it’s that big a deal. I don’t know why you do. What about all of the tourist traffic Starbucks would have brought downtown?”

What I did NOT say (in an attempt NOT to freak out on a potential business partner). “First of all – bull shit you wouldn’t care if it was a McDonalds sign. Secondly – it’s corporate sprawl! There are already three Starbucks in a 15 block radius. In a town where many people drive three blocks at a time. And, it’s the Historic Hotel Alex Johnson – an ICON of history and art. Arguably a museum in and of itself in many respects. Thirdly – I don’t think it would have brought SO many new customers downtown that wouldn’t have come already, and maybe *gasp* – GAWD FORBID – purchased their coffee from a local shop! Fourthly – this is a big deal for everyone because it’s a symptom of a culture. Are we going to work hard to revise a nearly dead downtown with art and culture? Or with Starbucks and Applebees?

Yes. I am in support of defacing the alley side of these public buildings with spray paint art (except that I  will say I am hoping for a more eco-friendly paint option) because I believe in art. I will not support big corporate money moving into our downtown. Period. We are deciding what kind of business culture we are going to nurture here, with each and every decision like this. And I would not be surprised if, by letting Starbucks have their way with our downtown buildings, we set a precedent and paved they way for WalMart or Target signs lighting up our downtown streets.

There. I penned. I hope you aren’t offended.Circle-Starbucks-Coffee-Logo-Wallpaper

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