SHOREWOOD - Colectivo and Stone Creek might dominate Milwaukee's coffee scene, but on a short section of Oakland Avenue in Shorewood, there's a Starbucks on every corner.
I'm referring, of course, to the Starbucks inside of the Shorewood Metro Market, 4075 N. Oakland Ave., which opened in February 2016 nearly across the street from a Starbucks at 4170 N. Oakland Ave. that has been frothing cappuccinos for the past 11 years.
I held my tongue at the time of Metro Market's opening, as there were more than half a dozen in-house specialty shops for oysters, sushi and other delicious foods to distract me from what seemed like a questionable business choice by the nation's most financially successful coffee shop. Surely, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz couldn't have signed off on such a thing, I thought.
After more than a year, it seems the two Starbucks stores have peacefully coexisted. Dawn Rundle, the manager of the Starbucks store at 4170 N. Oakland Ave., said she hasn't seen her store's numbers drop at all, and anyone who has been to the store can tell you this is the truth. She knows many of her loyal customers by name, having managed the store since it opened 11 years ago.
The Starbucks at Metro Market, on the other hand, is not intended to compete with the existing Starbucks, said Roundy's spokesman James Hyland. Similar to an in-store bank or the growler beer bar, Starbucks' coffee is "just another of many services we have to offer," Hyland said.
Starbucks gave Roundy's a license to operate a Starbucks out of the Shorewood Metro Market, but it is not a typical Starbucks. The baristas, for example, are employed by Roundy's, not Starbucks.
I tried to get a deeper insight into Starbucks' business strategy on the matter, but the best I could do was a response from a customer service representative assuring me that my concerns are being taken seriously, have been thoroughly documented and shared with all appropriate departments in the Starbucks office.
This section of Oakland Avenue must be an especially hot area for coffee-lovers. Not only is the Starbucks at Metro Market within two blocks of its own store, there is also a thriving Stone Creek Coffee location right across the street. Colectivo owns The Ruckus restaurant right in the middle of this coffee triangle, but the only coffee served is the nitro cold brew coffee on draft.
There is, of course, the phrase about there someday being a Starbucks on every corner, which has turned out to be not far from the truth in multiple different cities across the country. Similar to Shorewood, these multiple Starbucks occurrences are usually attributed to grocery stores, malls and book stores. One academic even created a diagram displaying the farthest point from a Starbucks in the U.S.
Perhaps the most famous example of this Starbucks phenomenon is in the movie "Best in Show," where a couple says, "We met at Starbucks. Not at the same Starbucks, but we saw each other at different Starbucks across the street."
Comedian Lewis Black found two Starbucks across the street from one another in Houston, which he claimed was "the end of the universe." The Houston Chronicle reports there are now three Starbucks at that intersection in Houston.
I wouldn't say that the 4000 and 4100 blocks of Oakland Avenue are the end of the universe, but it does make me think about all of the duplicate services offered at Metro Market and elsewhere on the street. The gigantic two-story grocer surely posed problems for Sendik's, which closed last month, but how will the other small vendors stack up against the other existing pizzerias, sushi restaurants — and yes, even Starbucks — that have become part of the local fabric of Shorewood?