Starbucks, Potbelly coming to town

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Online Poster

By Courtney Pischke

The construction site at the corner of Fifth and Green streets will soon be home for Potbelly sandwiches and Starbucks coffee.

Talk of building in the Campustown location started long ago, but after years of much discussion, Starbucks, the Seattle coffee company, finally has agreed on 501 E. Green St., adjoining with a Potbelly Sandwich Works.

Starbucks will probably open in the second quarter of 2005, said Jim Lopez, an employee with Broeren-Russo, the site’s construction company.

Starbucks has long-awaited the transition from big cities like Chicago to smaller cities such as Champaign. The new Starbucks will be the first stand-alone Starbucks in Champaign-Urbana. Currently, the only local Starbucks is located in Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Neil Street, north of Interstate 74 and miles from campus.

“Like any company with rapid expansion, Starbucks is a retailer that expanded in larger markets first and is now looking to saturate secondary markets (like Champaign),” said Champaign realtor Tim Harrington, who has helped Starbucks find locations in southern Illinois. “Eventually I would imagine that Champaign would have three to four Starbucks.”

Workers at two other Campustown coffee shops said they weren’t worried about the effect Starbucks would have on their business.

“I think that Green Street (Coffeehouse) will be OK, since it’s independent,” said Alexis Krasner, senior in LAS and a former employee of Green Street Coffeehouse, 608 E. Green St.

Doug McCarber, district manager for Espresso Royale, said he does not expect Starbucks to take away business from Espresso Royale’s four campus locations, except for “maybe the one (location) at Sixth and Daniel (streets).

“It’s kind of like when they open a new bar,” McCarber said. “People go to check it out, but if they’re loyal to the bar they’re going to (before), they’ll go back.”

Nicole Friedrichsen, manager of a Starbucks at the University of Iowa, said the addition of a Starbucks on campus helped to raise recognition of specialty coffees as a whole.

“Everyone has this misconception that Starbucks would be like a Big Brother coming in to drive all the small guys out of business,” Friedrichsen said. “But actually, Starbucks increases awareness of the gourmet coffee sector – more consumers would have a greater appreciation for all types of coffee. The market as a whole came about after the licensed Starbucks locations did so well.”

In a school such as the University where a large majority of the student body is comprised of Chicago-area natives, the new Starbucks will attract customers such as Liz Snell, senior in FAA.

“I don’t know if the city realizes how much they would profit from with a Starbucks in this town,” said Snell, a native of Winnetka, Ill. “When I’m at home and I talk to people from other schools, I say ‘Well, this is the last time I’ll have a real Starbucks drink before I go back to Champaign’ and people always look so shocked – no one understands that (the University) doesn’t even have a single Starbucks.”

The University is the last Big Ten school to get a Starbucks on campus. The students at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor now have four of the jazz-playing coffee shops. The students at Indiana University have two options for satisfying their caffeine cravings, one on the west end of campus and one on the eastern part of town. A second Starbucks was built last August near Illinois State University in Normal, Ill.

Next to the new Starbucks at the University, Potbelly Sandwich Works will open in early April, said Peter Nolan, director of marketing for Potbelly.

Most Potbelly restaurants are located in the Chicagoland area. However, after finding lucrative markets in other college towns across America, Nolan said the sandwich company is eager to come to Champaign to try for a similar result.

“Our price point and comfortable atmosphere attract college students,” Nolan said. “The right location and foot traffic really drive our business.”

Howard Schultz, the Starbucks chairman, is also on Potbelly’s board of directors.

– Jonie Seo contributed to this article