Dining

[Economy]

Double-mocha nonfat soy sadness

Vegas must say goodbye to beloved coffeehouse(s)

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Photo: Jerry Miller

What really hurts in a near-depression/recession/national tragedy is when cherished neighborhood coffeehouses are affected. Upon hearing the death knell for five—five—of my favorite local Starbucks, I set out to enjoy them all one last time before they close on July 27, and to chronicle them here, so that they’re etched in history. (Later I would learn that the company eventually plans to shut down another 12 in the Vegas area, but it’s best that I got this news piecemeal.)

The Starbucks at 4810 W. Desert Inn is marked by memorable green umbrellas outside of a strip mall. This is a cozy venue, in the corner of a parking lot, snuggled up next to a Subway. Actually, I’m not sure if this is the one with the Subway or not. It seems like it, as I imagine it now, because even with the manifold notes I have in hand, I somehow failed to note that. Anyway, for certain, this is the one with the sign: “Today is a new smoothie,” which is either heartbreakingly ironic or full of hopeful pap, because today is the first day of the last week of this Starbucks’ existence. I’m leaning toward the tragic. Dead smoothie.

More

More from the Weekly
The inside scoop as Starbucks downsizes (Las Vegas Weekly, 7/1/08)
The locations that will close on July 27 are:
4810 W. Desert Inn Road
2510 E. Tropicana Ave.
5181 W. Charleston Blvd.
3720 Lake Mead Blvd.
6515 N. Buffalo Drive
The whole list of the local Starbucks on the chopping block includes:
65 E. Horizon Ridge Parkway
1340 E. Flamingo Road
4626 S. Maryland Parkway
2390 E. Serene Ave.
8000 W. Sahara Ave.
7595 W. Washington Ave.
6100 W. Flamingo Road
4480 Paradise Road
5590 Painted Mirage Road
950 S. Durango Drive
6360 N. Simmons St.
1513 W. Craig Road

I should pause here to say something about the special place these coffeehouses have in our turn-of-the-century cultural milieu. If I did, which I won’t, it would include some mention of the evils of corporations and some back-swat at our knee-jerk reaction to the word “corporation.” I would place Vegas in the middle of that god-awful diatribe about lack of character and dependence on corporate chains, for better or worse, neither of which opinion matters now.

The point is, we’re losing coffee joints. That’s sad. To say nothing of the starving coffee-picking children in the Third World who were saved by every drop of environmentally sound coffee you bought here with a clean conscience guaranteed by a brochure.

I head off to the next location on the list, the Starbucks at 5181 W. Charleston. I pass another Starbucks on the way, which is, in fact, less than 0.3 miles from the one that will be closing. No matter. Sadness is sadness. Inside: a New York Times stand. A USA Today stand. Amy Winehouse is singing. A man is using his laptop. This is quite clearly the cultural epicenter of Vegas, and I’m feeling outrage about the lack of outrage about the prospect of losing it. It’s big and yellow inside, still has that Friends-derivative décor, and on this day, the day its imminent death was noticed in a two-inch business story in the R-J, there is no riot.

A gray–headed woman wearing a hot-pink shirt, indigo-dyed jeans and hot-pink socks with sandals drops her 20 cents’ change in the tip jar and takes an excessive amount of recyclable napkins with her cup of decaf latte and leaves. Just like that. No goodbye, no thanks for all the good times.

At my next stop, which may or may not be the right location on Lake Mead Boulevard, things are even more grim. “Today is a new smoothie.” One barista is sitting alone by the window, which has an irreplaceable view of a strip mall, and if she leaned out a little, she could probably see the surviving Subway next door. But she’s on her cell phone. A customer—female, mid-20s, skinny pants—engages the boy barista behind the counter: “It’s hot outside.”

“Yes,” he says. And in a flash, this cultural transaction is over, and she waltzes out with her venti mocha and lights a cigarette, the smoke curling into the dirty sky.

The next tragedy on my list is on a corner of a strip mall, and is next to a Rosatti’s, not a Subway. In the window: “Today is a new smoothie.” What does that mean? Inside, a barista girl is sleeping in a brown leather chair, the stylish kind, in the corner. She’s wearing her green ’Bucks shirt and black capris, and she’s tired. So tired.

Behind the counter, though, the band plays on—two women (one wearing eyeglasses, the stylish kind) and a waifish guy sport Hawaiian leis over their green shirts. He offers me a free sample of Naked Juice from among a dozen Dixie cups on a tray. The ice in each cup is almost all melted; no one has taken a sample. No matter. The baristas, with no other customers, dance around to Willie Nelson on the Starbucks CD player, one of the cool retro Willie songs that can be liked despite being country because it’s Willie, and he is legendary. I will miss that contribution to the zeitgeist.

I ask the barista with the glasses whether they will lose their jobs. She says no, it’s no big deal, they’ll be transferred to one of the other locations. A Starbucks spokesperson said that although Vegas is among the hardest-hit cities in the mega-company’s 600-plus closures, most employees will be kept employed, but those who are not will be “offered a severance payment to aid in their transition.”

If only we had something to aid in ours.

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