It's no secret that Taoseños like to support local businesses. In fact, when corporate entities like Starbucks and IHOP started eyeing the town several years ago, it stirred conversation about whether or not it would take away patrons from local businesses. So when Starbucks officially opened their second Taos location on Nov. 16 inside Smith's Food & Drug, other local coffee shops saw it as potentially invasive to the area and their businesses.
"I used to be so proud of our town that had 10 local coffee shops," said Janet Boccelli, barista at Elevation Coffee (1110 Paseo del Pueblo Norte). "I think it kind of hurts to have a corporate coffee shop here in town."
Boccelli noted that one of her biggest complaints about Starbucks is their lack of attention to the coffee's characteristics, and said she feels they serve drinks that are "not catered for the quality of coffee, but for the sugar that they use to cover up the actual coffee flavor." She said that the amount of sugar they use is concerning. "Since diabetes is one of the leading underlying diseases with people getting COVID, I don't feel it's a great thing to be serving diabetes-inducing drinks."
Marcus Gabbert, barista and co-manager at The Coffee Spot (900 Paseo del Pueblo Norte), said that a second Starbucks location seemed a bit over the top. "We already have one in Albertsons, and a lot of people weren't stoked on that," said Gabbert. "A lot of people in town like to go to local businesses, that's why most of my regulars come here."
Gabbert said the idea of two locations "seems entirely unnecessary and not exactly great for the town, especially given this past year. I mean everybody is struggling," he said. "Every business is having a hard time." He noted that three coffee shops have had their businesses affected in the past several years, including Wired Cyber Cafe and Caffe Tazza - which closed their doors permanently - and Taos Cow, which downsized to a small trailer after leaving their previous location in Arroyo Seco.
Luckily both Elevation Coffee and The Coffee Spot have strong local followings, and have been able to survive the various shutdown orders and stages of service with strong community support. "We don't feel like they're going to take away [local] business," said Boccelli. "I'm just not happy that they are here taking away some of the tourists' business for sure. Usually the tourists are out seeking little special coffee shops."
One consolation both Boccelli and Gabbert agreed on was the fact that both of the Starbucks locations are within existing grocery stores. Had the company built a standalone store, competition might be different, Boccelli explained. "I think it's better that they are within a building instead of having their own structure," she said. "Then it would be really hard because people who don't know the town would immediately go there and not even look up all the little local places."
Whether other coffee shops like it or not, Starbucks is here to stay, and manager Liza Bernal said that customers are excited. "A lot of people shop here in the store and were happy to see a Starbucks here so they wouldn't have to go to different stores," said Bernal. She said the limited capacity of 75 people inside Smith's has kept the new coffee shop from being too swamped. "We will have rushes of like three to five people, and then it'll stop, then start again," she explained.
The new Starbucks is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day inside of Smith's Food & Drug.