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Starbucks is leaving; Brooksville will be just fine

Yes, it's a chain, and in cities with a Starbucks on every other block, its glamor faded long ago.

If you lived in New York or even Tampa, you might make fun of its relentless expansion, as the satirical Onion newspaper did in a headline more than a decade ago: "New Starbucks Opens in Restroom of Existing Starbucks.''

You might knock the shallow hipness of its decor and the CDs it peddles, or decry the phony environmentalism of a company that goes through about 2 billion nonrecyclable paper cups per year.

But here in Brooksville, we didn't sneer.

Because who in our town could quibble with the sophistication of a place that served outstanding coffee by just about anyone's standards, that let you lounge indefinitely in leather easy chairs or at outside tables, that offered that ultimate connection with the big, wide, educated world — the print version of the New York Times?

Starbucks in Brooksville. It seemed to say something about us.

It opened in June 2007 right next to the new Publix, the one that sold organic produce and sushi.

Maybe corporate executives were starting to see us as people with a bit of taste and extra money. No doubt they were looking forward to the prospect of well-to-do golfers moving into Hernando Oaks and Southern Hills Plantation just south on U.S. 41.

Sheryl Ryan sat in the Brooksville shop Monday sipping her standard order, a nonfat latte with four Equals. The owner of a printing company that does business all over the state, she moved to Hernando County 2 ½ years ago from Gainesville. She found it a little too small and slow.

"And then just a few months later, they opened this Starbucks and the one in Spring Hill and I thought, okay, I just may be able to do this,'' she said as she waited to meet a customer.

"So today, I come in and see that sign, and I'm walking around here like I lost my best friend.''

The sign she was referring to announced that the store will close Friday. As you may have heard, the Brooksville outlet is one of several hundred the company is shutting down this year.

Though Starbucks didn't respond to a request for an interview Monday, it's easy to guess its reasons for eliminating the Brooksville location. No doubt, there was a smaller market for cappuccino on the truck route than the company had anticipated. Certainly, it didn't help that those upscale subdivisions didn't fill up as quickly as expected.

It's a shame because this was a chain that brought mostly good things to Brooksville — a nice place to hang out, coffee that wasn't poured from a glass pot, but brewed by trained "baristas."

But it isn't a tragedy, partly because there are roughly 17,000 stores just like it, including one 5 miles west on State Road 50. And the true measure of how far Brooksville has come isn't the kind of chains it attracts, but the kind of stores and restaurants it can create on its own.

Take the Rising Sun Cafe on Main Street.

Maybe the coffee isn't quite as good, but nobody can complain about the canned quality of the art on the wall; it's all local. The space is bigger and more inviting. And the outside tables overlook downtown Brooksville, which beats the heck out of the truck route.

Starbucks is leaving; Brooksville will be just fine 05/04/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 4, 2009 7:10pm]
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