It's an encouraging reflection of how well things are going in Missoula these days that little else is causing as much teeth-gnashing among the local intelligentsia than the impending opening of a downtown Starbucks coffee shop...I hadn't thought about it this way. Before Starbucks, coffee was cheap and bad. So my San Francisco friends who get upset over Starbucks displacing local coffee houses are getting upset over Starbucks displacing its own imitators.
Those small independent coffee shops and kiosks all over town that Starbucks now threatens? They owe their existence to Starbucks. It was Starbucks that got people to plunk down $2 for a cup of coffee and be glad about it. It the process it launched an entire industry -- made up, by the way, largely of little, independently owned espresso shops that took a whole lot of business away from the cafes and restaurants that once did a brisk business with 25-cent cups of drip coffee.
Today there are thousands and thousands of young people earning money in coffee-making jobs -- some with Starbucks, most elsewhere. These are jobs that didn't exist before Starbucks introduced Americans to the term "barista." These aren't high-paying jobs, but they're plentiful with flexible hours, and they help pay rent or tuition. Pre-Starbucks, making coffee was something a waitress or bus boy did in between their many other chores.My son Duncan, who is a senior in high school, just got a job at the Starbucks located in the Super Target here in our town. He'll be a Target employee, not a Starbucks employee, so it won't be quite the same, but still, I was pleased to hear about his new gig. In the universe of jobs available to high school students, Starbucks is good duty -- decent pay, reasonable hours, interesting customers, and no slaving over a fry cooker or burger grill. It will be a solid part-time job for him over the summer and as he starts college this fall.