Plans by Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX), the ubiquitous, but wildly successful, American coffee shop chain, to open up an outlet at the Place du Tertre in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris has some local residents up in arms.
Although Starbucks already has established a presence in the legendary City of Light -- having first opened stores in France in 2004 -- Place du Tertre means something special to Parisians. Indeed, the picturesque square has long hosted street artists painting in their easels and boasted having such great artists and writers such as Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Maurice Utrillo among its illustrious former residents.
The Place du Tertre is also located very close to the beloved and iconic Basilica of the Sacré Cœur, as well as the famous Lapin Agile cabaret. L'Espace Salvador Dalí, a celebrated museum that exhibits the drawings and sculpture of Salvador Dalí, isn’t far away either.
Does a Starbucks belong in such a place?
An American writer named Mary Kay, who operates a blog called “Out and About in Paris,” commented on the impending store opening.
“If someone asked you to close your eyes and imagine one spot in Paris that symbolizes everything that the city means to you, would you conjure up images of a cozy café in the Marais, an old bookstore in the Latin Quarter or a Starbucks at Place du Tertre in Montmartre?” she asked. “Will the artists at Place du Tertre soon be sipping coffee out of cups emblazoned with the Starbuck's logo?”
Kay indicated that the local artists on the square expressed apathy and resignation about the new Starbucks, citing that the former owner of the space that the coffee giant will occupy could not afford the high rent.
“Resigning myself to the realities of modern day Paris, I trudged down the steps towards the metro,” Kay added.
“When I heard a group of Americans behind me, I couldn't resist asking if they had heard the news. Shaking their heads in dismay, they said that a Starbucks will completely ruin the essence of Place du Tertre. As for me, I'm still trying to imagine Hemingway ordering a Frappuccino grande and a muffin before settling down with his laptop to take advantage of Starbuck's free Wi-Fi.”
But Starbucks is already in France.
According to MyStore411.com, there are 52 Starbucks locations in France, the bulk of them (39) in Paris itself. On the whole, the chain has almost 18,000 stories worldwide.
An organization called Paris Fierté, or Paris Pride, is vowing to block Starbucks from opening on the fabled square of Place du Tertre.
“Already 20 years ago, McDonald’s tried to set up on the Butte (de Montmartre). The fast food giant had to throw in the towel. Here again we have no intention of giving in,” a member of Pride told the Le Figaro newspaper of Paris.
Pride has launched a petition in the neighborhood, which they plan to submit to local officials and then launch protests.
On its website, Pride declared war on Starbucks: “If tourists from around the world come to Paris to discover the Montmartre district, it is for its unique atmosphere. [If we] accept the introduction of Starbucks in our neighborhood, it would give victory to the globalists who are destroying cultural identities. Resist with us! You want to preserve the spirit of Montmartre? You want a world [of individualism] and not of uniformity? There is still time to derail the [entry] of Starbucks! Merchants, residents, Paris-lovers around the world, all set against the introduction of Starbucks!”
However, some local residents say the real problems are skyrocketing rents that are driving out ordinary shopkeepers from the area.
Frédéric Loup, a pharmacist and president of the Upper Montmartre shopkeeper’s association, told the Daily Telegraph: “I have no illusions about the future. Rent has gone up so much that when I leave, there will be no more [pharmacists] on the butte Montmartre. Small shopkeepers are finding it harder and harder to hold on. Who has enough clout to battle against a giant [like Starbucks]?”
For the record, there are also some 1,200 McDonald’s restaurants in France, making it the company’s second-largest market, after the U.S.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.