Save your Starbucks! Slate wants to hear the symptoms of your withdrawal.

Commentary about business and finance.
July 21 2008 6:23 PM

Save Your Starbucks!

Soon there will be 600 fewer places to get a Frappucino. Slate wants to hear the symptoms of your withdrawal.

The Starbucks franchise is downsizing from a grande to a tall. The ubiquitous coffee retailer announced it's closing about 600 of its U.S. stores, beginning this month. The swath of shuttered windows will chop away 5.5 percent of Starbucks' domestic fleet, 44 states (and one capital) will be left with a venti-sized void, and an estimated 12,000 people will lose their jobs.

Less than two years ago, Starbucks was riding high. It said it eventually planned to open 20,000 stores and affiliates in the United States. Its stock was twice the price it is now, and the "Starbucks-is-everywhere" jokes were flowing. But now the company is contracting along with the rest of the economy.

Perhaps striving for ubiquity isn't the best business model, after all. For years, Starbucks soaked up revenue only to wring out the capital in new markets. In theory this made sense: The model helped spur growth and made the company a favorite of Wall Street. This earn-'n'-spend technique was made possible by steady profit margins, but those margins started slipping last year. With declining profit margins in current locations, the company has been forced to scale back on expansion and concentrate on the fires closer to home.

Starbucks' list of 600 closures was too appealing for us to ignore. We crunched some numbers to see which areas are being hit hardest. Regionally, the South and Great Plains are worst off. Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama are all losing more than 10 percent of their Starbucks. Iowa, North Dakota, and Nebraska are hurting in the breadbasket. Our results are below.

We also zoomed in to focus on municipalities. For the sake of our sanity (and yours), we looked only at the cities or towns that were losing more than one Starbucks. We also culled the census for population data from each of the 74 cities that made it through our screener. (We're using estimates from 2006.) Click on the "People per closing" tab in the above spreadsheet to see the results.

Closings will hit little Orange Park, Fla., the hardest. * In a town of only 9,106, three Starbucks are disappearing—one for every 3,035 people. Of the bigger cities, Baton Rouge, La., is the worst hit. Nine out of 12 Baton Rouge stores are folding, one for every 25,505 people. Sources on the ground tell us that Starbucks expanded very rapidly and couldn't overcome a strong local competitor. Mobile, Ala., and Las Vegas are the next two big cities to be hit hardest.

As chronicled in Monday's Wall Street Journal, some folks are starting to realize that big, bad Starbucks wasn't such an evil menace after all. Save Our Starbucks campaigns are sprouting up organically across the country in an effort to keep the corporate giant in town. At this point, mom-and-pop owners must be questioning what they did in a prior life to deserve such cruelty.

The coffee addicts at Slate understand how devastating it is when your caffeine dealer gets busted. In response, we've started our first-ever crowd-sourced map to help you and the rest of the country grieve. Below you'll find a map of some of the Starbucks stores closing across the country. The content of it can be edited like any Wikipedia entry and therefore needs to be policed just like Wikipedia, as well. We're counting on the Slate hive mind to produce a collective map of Starbucks memories, impressions, and anecdotes.

We want to hear from you. If you frequented a Starbucks that's soon to be closed, write a testimonial about it for the map. What's the history of the place? Did it force a mom-and-pop joint out of business? Or was it the kaffeeklatsch of the community? Did the service suck? Was there a certain demographic (hipsters, old folk, caffeine-addled yuppies) who swarmed the premises? Pictures and video are all welcome, as well.

How do you do all this? To look for a Starbucks closing near you, click View Larger Map beneath the smaller version below. Only a third of the closures are displayed on the map at once because of technological logistics outside of our control. (Head here for a map plotting all the closures.) There are three pages' worth of markers to scroll through, so be sure to click "Next" at the bottom of the list to the left of the map if you don't see the one closest to you. Once you find the store you want to write about, click "Save to My Maps," and then click "Edit." Final step: Click on the marker representing the closure you want to write about, and let your memories flood to the page. Sign your post if you'd like, and cross your twitchy, overcaffeinated fingers that corporate execs in Seattle will hear your desperate pleas.

Correction, July 22, 2008: This article originally referred to Orange Park, Fla., as Orange Grove, Fla. No such place exists. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)

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