The announcement that Starbucks will be closing 600 stores nationwide last week hit (see Mike Luckovich's cartoon from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution above) kind of like an announcement that 600 drops of water were being removed from the Mississippi River. I remember a conversation I had with a friend last week, remembered semi-verbatim below:
Him: You remember, we were at the Starbucks in your old neighborhood in New York.
Me: The one by the diner.
Him: No, the one on Astor Place.
Me: The diner is on Astor Place.
Him: Right, but the other one.
Me: The one by the subway station?
Him: No, that's the one on the east side of Astor Place. The other other one, across the street.
When I lived in the East Village for six months after Katrina, you could stand on the street outside my apartment and literally see four Starbucks stores. Where I live now, in the Bywater - and this may be one of the last places in the U.S. that this can happen - you'll pass at least six independent coffeehouses, plus two stores owened by the Louisiana chain CC's, before you get to the nearest Starbucks. I'm not a hater - I'll sip from the green straw as often as anyone. But for those who like the option of caffeinating locally, this website is a nice alternative option. Here's how it works: enter in your ZIP code, and it goes into its viewer-built database and gives you addresses, phone numbers and reviews on all the indie coffee shops within five miles of where you are (it'll also give you the locations of all the convenient Starbucks shops, just to play fair.) You can do it from your cell phone; it'll even give you map directions how to get there.
It'll also do the same to find indie bookstores and movie theaters. It's probably good for people who have become unintentional shut-ins due to Amazon and Netflix. Thankfully, you can't buy a cup of coffee on the Internet yet.