Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village

Photo Source VasenkaPhotography | CC BY 2.0

In 2007, when Starbucks took over a cavernous storefront formerly occupied by a children’s clothing store, it resulted in a sprawling interior space with comfortable chairs and sofas niched around the pillars; banquettes lined a wall decorated with local art work, some of the tables and easy chairs facing the bay and park across the street. The effect was upscale almost, and very urban, each seating area affording a measure of privacy in a public space.

There was plenty of room for everyone. The employees paid little attention to what went on in the customer area. After school let out, teenagers filtered in and settled in a section toward the back, where they hung out with friends and could use the unlocked bathroom.

As the town’s public toilets had recently been shut down and the library was half a mile away, it was a godsend to have a quasi-public bathroom. And Starbucks was a convenient place to meet up with people or wait for a ride home after getting off the late evening train.

We locals, the backbone of their business, each had our own customary spot. Ray, who worked at the five-and-ten until it went out of business, sat near the front entrance with her knitting. An elderly man in a wheelchair whiled away morning hours near one of the central pillars, and an unpublished mystery writer, also in a wheelchair, worked in a nook beside another pillar. A neatly dressed man in his early forties–possibly a NY…

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