Town Dreads Starbucks' Departure Starbucks has announced that it will be closing more than 600 stores nationwide. In Country Club Hills, Ill., the single Starbucks served as a sign of community success. As it shuts its doors, residents are questioning the health of their town.
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Town Dreads Starbucks' Departure

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Town Dreads Starbucks' Departure

Town Dreads Starbucks' Departure

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ALEX COHEN, host:

This is Day to Day from NPR News. I'm Alex Cohen.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick. If the barista looks a little glum this morning, Starbucks has announced its first ever quarterly loss. The company has been cutting costs nationwide lately, with layoffs and store closures. For some communities the loss of a local Starbucks is really grim. Chicago Public Radio's Adriene Hill reports.

ADRIENE HILL: I'm standing here, outside the Starbucks Coffee in Country Club Hills, Illinois. This is among the first to close as part of Starbucks' larger plan to shut 600 stores. Its windows are papered over. There is a, thank you and our sincerest apologies sign on the window. And there are crews here taking the iconic green Starbucks lettering off the side of the building.

(Soundbite of construction work)

HILL: The building is a generic brick strip mall type structure. It's new-looking. In fact, the Starbucks only opened here in May of last year. It's right next to the enormous parking lot for a Wal-Mart which is where I wind up breaking the news to Starbucks fan, Melody Mellon (ph).

Ms. MELODY MELLON (Starbucks' Fan): What? You're joking. You're joking right?

HILL: Mellon got her coffee here many days on her way to work. She lives right down the street. This is her closest Starbucks. Mellon says she liked the coffee, liked the people who worked here, and she says she's sad to see it go.

Ms. MELLON: Every time I went there, there were people reading, you know, book groups were going there, meeting. It was a nice place to just be able to sit and hang out and, you know, there's really not many places like that out here in Country Club Hills to do that.

HILL: This community is solidly middle class and it's predominantly black. The south suburb of Chicago is, like its name hints at, looking to make good. It calls itself the crossroads of opportunity. Losing the Starbucks means losing ground.

Ms. TRACY FIELDS (President, Country Club Hills Chamber of Commerce): Country Club Hills is a place that new businesses, existing businesses, can grow. And I think, with Starbucks leaving, it does set a kind of mixed feeling for someone looking at Country Club Hills to say, well if Starbucks couldn't make it, I know I can't make it. And that's not true. Starbucks did not give us a chance.

HILL: That's Tracy Fields, the president of the Country Club Hills Chamber of Commerce. Fields says it's not just that it sends a bad sign to businesses considering the area, it's also frustrating for people who live here.

Ms. FIELDS: I like to shop where I live. I like to shop where I work. And I like the convenience. I do not feel that it's necessary to take my dollars outside of my community to give them to another community when we have the space, the location and the traffic here to support it here.

HILL: A spokeswoman for the city says its Economic Development Commission is going to start a writing campaign to Corporate Starbucks. Both the city and the chamber of commerce say the town would happily welcome the coffee shop right back if the company changed its mind. But back out at the former Starbucks location, it doesn't look like that'll be happening any time soon. The Starbucks signs are already down now. There's hardly a mark on the brick exterior. Customer Darice Goodwin (ph) pulls up in her car with her nephew, looking to get some apple cider. She's surprised to see it closed.

HILL: What do you think it means for the neighborhood? For the community?

Ms. DARICE GOODWIN (Starbucks Customer): I don't think it means anything for the neighborhood, I think it says a lot for Starbucks. Maybe people are just not buying that expensive coffee as much.

HILL: It's that market trend that's forced Starbucks' hand. In a written statement, the company says it used several criteria to decide what stores to close, including locations that weren't profitable and those that might not provide "acceptable returns in the foreseeable future." The company wouldn't get into any specifics about the reasons the Country Club Hills store was closed. The community is one of the first of hundreds in the country that are being forced to say goodbye to Starbucks coffee and its cachet. For NPR News, I'm Adriene Hill in Chicago.

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