Jacob Grier, an indie coffee shop aficionado, praises the corporate behemoth:
The charge that Starbucks was driving other shops out of business was never justified. Competitor Peet’s weathered the attack and continues to thrive. Relative newcomer Caribou Coffee has expanded to become the nation’s second largest coffee chain. Most importantly, there are more independent coffee shops today than ever before. The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), a trade group that tracks the market for high-end coffee, reports spectacular growth in the industry. In 1989, the SCAA estimated that there were just 585 coffee retailers in the United States. By 2006 that number had risen to nearly 24,000. Sixty percent of these shops are independently owned or part of micro-chains of less than ten units.[...]
Starbucks was the gateway drug to specialty coffee. Customers tried it there first and then graduated to the often-superior products sold by indie shops. Even Duane Sorensen, owner of the proudly anti-corporate Stumptown Coffee in Portland, Oregon, concedes that Starbucks raised standards in the industry. Ward Barbee, publisher of the coffee publication Fresh Cup, is even more effusive. “Every morning, I bow down to the great green god for making all of this possible,” he told the Willamette Weekly in 2004. In short, Starbucks and indie shops grew up side by side. Indie shops learned from Starbucks’s retailing genius and built off its customer base. Then the indie shops left Starbucks in the dust.