South Boston Getting Another Starbucks

By Cat Calsolaro
Boston University News Service

SOUTH BOSTON — Southie is like an aging movie star: She was once vibrant and beloved, but people moved on. To rekindle her popularity, she’s going in for a facelift, but loyal fans are uneasy about sacrificing authenticity just to fit in.

On the west side, near the Broadway T stop, construction continues on a six-story commercial and residential development by Bodwell Pines Corp. at 11 West Broadway. But it’s not the 50 upscale apartments going in causing a stir in the neighborhood — it’s the three ground floor retail units.

Subway and Starbucks have signed on to fill two of the vacancies. Though Subway is the largest fast food chain in the country, with 25,477 U.S. locations, according to its website, it is not facing the same backlash as Starbucks’ plans for a Southie location.

Starbucks has 10,787 American shops and raked in $11.7 billion in fiscal year 2011, according to company reports. But the firm’s prominence poses a threat to the number of locally owned coffee shops already in South Boston. Local favorites like PS Gourmet, Java House and Bailey’s are Southie pride.

PS Gourmet on Dorchester Street opened in 1986 and has a steady business of customers who have been going there for years. Java House on East Broadway is the go-to spot for the morning cup, or thermos, o’ joe, residents said.

“They cater to the early morning commuter crowd by providing the biggest damn cup of iced coffee in the business,” said lifelong Southie resident and Java House regular, Patrick Hellen,

The 30-ounce iced coffee is a favorite among customers, some who vow to never go to a Starbucks. “One of the best parts of Southie are the local coffee shops,” said one customer.

The Southie die-hards will likely remain loyal to their local coffee brewers, but others noted some possible perks of a Starbucks in the area.

“I don’t drink coffee, but I am looking forward to Starbucks because it is a sign that the neighborhood is making progress,” said Joe O’Brien, who actually complained boisterously about the epidemic of double parking outside of Bailey’s Café on L Street. “My prediction is that we’ll see another Starbucks location on the east side within a year of the Broadway location opening. Goodbye Bailey’s.”

Besides parking grudges against the local shops, other residents thought it would be nice to have a coffee shop open on Sunday afternoons and something to cater to people who would like a more varied selection.

South Boston currently has three Starbucks, all in the Seaport District that cater to the Convention Center crowds and Waterfront hotel guests. There are also four Dunkin Donuts but no complaints about the chain from residents. With primarily lighter coffees and no espresso machines, the local shops seem to be modeling themselves after Dunkin Donuts. After all, the brand was founded in 1950 in Quincy, Mass.

“I’m very excited,” said Sandra Munoz, a recent college graduate and Southie resident. “I would love a brightly lit [place] with tables and chairs for more than eight customers.”

Neither Starbucks nor Subway responded request for comment. Executives from Bodwell Pines declined to comment.

Whether residents are with it or against it, it appears that Starbucks in Southie is here to stay. One more step up (or down, depending on the point of view) the stairs to a gentrified South Boston.

“South Boston is quickly sliding down a slippery slope to becoming just another faceless neighborhood,” said Carl Rivers, a lifelong South Boston homeowner. “I own property here and this change isn’t hurting its value, but neighborhood charm is quickly fading away.”

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