When Starbucks closed due to the pandemic in mid-March, it hit me hard. I reasoned that if Starbucks was closing, then things must be serious, and indeed they were serious---and still are. What is it about Starbucks? First of all, Starbucks is everywhere. However, their power in this market is about more than size. It’s also about scale, branding, and ethics. As of early 2020, there were roughly 30,000 Starbucks locations around the world, nestled into pretty much every nook and cranny of planet Earth. Everyone recognizes the logo and what it stands for---coffee and other hot drinks, with some snacks and a la carte food offerings, a place to sit, free wifi, community with other people, and the right to sit peacefully without being disturbed. Starbucks also has the distinction of being the largest buyer of certified Fair Trade coffee in the world. Early on, Starbucks branded itself as a “third space”---a place between home and work; a place to think, to read, to wo
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About a week ago, the unthinkable happened. One mid-August morning, my Barista Aroma TM 8-cup coffeemaker broke. It became essentially unusable. My first reaction was denial. The large rubber lip of the thermal carafe had become completely unhinged. I tried to meld it back together, but this coffee maker was almost 4 years old. Indeed, if ever there was ‘planned obsolescence’ this was it---because it was definitely NOT abuse. Over the years, I have loved that coffeemaker. On some cold winter mornings, I would practically coo at it as it competently brewed my coffee. I loved many of its features. It’s black and silver sleekness, the gold mesh flat filter, the fact that I could yank the carafe away from the case before it finished brewing in order to pour myself half a cup. I loved the shushing sound it made as it brewed, the strategically placed water canister, and the digital read-out. Ours was a warm respectable relationship informed by my primal addiction to coffee.
The first thing you should know about Chock Full o’Nuts is that is does NOT have nuts in it. It may seem obvious to people familiar with the brand, but it has been such a source of confusion that recently the folks at Massimo Zannetti Beverage Company added a statement on the container: “100% PREMIUM COFFEE, NO NUTS, JUST COFFEE.” Wouldn’t it be easier to simply change the name? Maybe, but with such a rich heritage dating back almost 100 years, it would be a loss. When William Black opened his nut business in NYC (at Broadway & 43 rd ) in 1926, he had 18 shops; however, when the Great Depression hit, nuts were considered a luxury---but coffee was still essential. In 1932, Black revamped his nut shops, and started selling a cup of coffee with a sandwich for five cents. By 1953, Black was selling his coffee in supermarkets under the “Chock Full o’Nuts’ name, and two years later, his brand became America’s #1 selling coffee. Over the years, it has been the official coffee o