The meeting was held because of an ordinance passed by former City Councilman Frank DiCicco called the Central Delaware Zoning Overlay, which mandates that sitdown restaurants and nightclubs appear in front of communities to make the businesses fit the context of the area. The final tally was 12 for, 50 against.
Fishtown residents overwhelmingly disapproved of a potential new Starbucks at 1405 Frankford Ave., which, for many in attendance, symbolized the beginning of the end of the Frankford Avenue corridor’s small, local business presence that lacked a true corporate business. The meeting was held because of an ordinance passed by former City Councilman Frank DiCicco called the Central Delaware Zoning Overlay, which mandates that sitdown restaurants and nightclubs appear in front of communities to make the businesses fit the context of the area. The final tally was 12 for, 50 against.
Despite the fact that the vote taken at the meeting was a referendum on the site’s use — in this case, a sitdown restaurant/coffeeshop — residents repeatedly emphasized their disapproval over a corporate giant coffee shop coming to the area, not necessarily just any coffee shop in general.
“I feel like this neighborhood doesn’t need a corporate Starbucks,” said local business owner Steph Irwin. “I think what’s hard for me is that the money that will go into this establishment will not go back into our community.”
Despite the anti-corporate sentiment among residents, the development team was insistent that Starbucks would be a community asset.
“Starbucks is here to be a good neighbor and a good partner,” said zoning attorney Michael Phillips. “We believe it will be utilized by many members of the community who will enjoy it.”
Phillips also called the store “the most unique Starbucks in Philadelphia.”
“This is unlike any other Starbucks in the city from a design standpoint,” he said, “from the level of detail that went into it to fit it into Fishtown.
As Starbucks store design manager Sarah Crutchfield and senior designer Boban Jovanovic pointed out in a presentation, the store would be uniquely decorated with an aquatic theme in an effort to appeal to the Fishtown neighborhood. This included a fish mural on the inside of the store and a painted fish scale background on the store’s outdoor sign facing Frankford Avenue.
To some residents, the design came off as trying too hard to pander to the community.
“The idea of them putting fish scales and a fish mural and this fish, that fish, red fish, blue fish — I don’t care about that type of stuff,” said resident Rachel Kaminski. “It’s Fishtown so it’s, ‘We’re going to put a bunch of fish in here and you guys are going to be OK with that.’ I’m not OK with that.”
Local developer Roland Kassis, who’s the man behind establishments like Frankford Hall and Fette Sau, said his initial reaction to hearing about Starbucks moving in was “like a stab in my heart,” but later realized that there’s pros and cons to the store moving in, saying that, “They will work with us,” on community things like helping clean up the garden next door to the property.
Phillips confirmed that if the location goes up, Starbucks would help maintain and clean the garden “at least daily.”
Despite blowback from the community, the owner of Steap and Grind, a small local coffee shop located on the 1600 block of Frankford Avenue — two blocks from the proposed Starbucks location — isn’t worried. She believes it “won’t have a negative effect on mom and pop shops.”
“For my business standpoint, I’m not personally worried because the neighborhood doesn’t seem excited about it,” said Colleen Stephens. “I don’t think Starbucks is Fishtown appropriate, personally.”
Mark Capriotti, co-founder of ReAnimator coffee, agrees with Stephens in regards to how the proposed Starbucks will affect mom and pop shops.
“I don’t think so,” Capriotti said when asked if he feels the Starbucks will squander ReAnimator’s business “I think the vote at the [FNA] neighborhood meeting proves that.”
Capriotti said he’s not anti-Starbucks, he just doesn’t feel the location makes sense for the neighborhood.
“I just think that we thought Fishtown was supposed to be an urban neighborhood where there’s local businesses run by people who live and work in the neighborhood, not run by multinational corporations,” he said. “It seems antithetical to the neighborhood.”