Starbucks Strikes Twice in NYC's East Village

Bowery Boogie: First Avenue and Third Street saw a flurry of activity yesterday, as the media played up a newly-declared David and Goliath style battle between local coffee house The Bean and the over-caffeinated not-so-local Starbucks.

It’s not hard to get info about this story. From a block away, signs are visibly plastered all over the facade of the Bean’s current location on First Avenue, emphatically stating that they are leaving their location of ten years and are not happy about it. Forced out by “the evil empire,” they may be vacating their current corner, but not the East Village. Barely a venti away, they are opening three new locations, including one right down the block on First Avenue and Second Street (in addition to their recently opened spot on Broadway and 12th street).

Walking into the coffee house today, this Boogie writer was one of the many people filmed by NBC discussing how the neighborhood will not exactly welcome a Starbucks with open mugs. Watching NBC’s coverage tonight was somewhat disappointing. After interviewing several locals who were upset over the upcoming hostile takeover, NBC somehow managed to end the segment with some mundane chit-chat among the anchors about how “some people just aren’t used to change.”

Sort of missed the entire point, guys (and no, it’s not simply sour grapes talking because this gal ended up on NBC’s cutting room floor!).

But, wait, there’s more.

What is quite interesting to this reporter is that there is a sordid history of Starbucks and this particular space. Before The Bean (and quite briefly, a waffle shop) lived the beloved store Little Rickie, which had been an East Village institution for many years.

In the late 1990′s, back when the mallification of Manhattan was just a twinkle in corporate eyes, Little Rickie was selling stickers which resembled the Starbucks logo. The only difference – and it’s a big one – is that these stickers said “F*ckoffs Coffee” in place of you-know-who. The East Village being what it is, the stickers went over big-time.

Starbucks got wind of this preternaturally quickly and not only sued the people who made these products, but decided to sue all of the stores that sold them, Little Rickie among them.

Coincidence or not, Little Rickie’s closed shortly thereafter. So, once again, we have the involvement of Starbucks preceding the demise of a local favorite.

Just as a refresher, Little Rickie was – in this totally unbiased view – one of the greatest places that ever existed in this town. Vintage toys, outsider art (before it was even called that), kitsch memorabilia, art books, Day of the Dead collectibles (which had never been for sale in this town before) were interspersed with fine art items and the occasional comically naughty gift. One could find a perfect and affordable gift there for anyone.

It was nothing but fun on both sides of the counter. The eclectically ahead-of-the-curve owner gave yours truly a job during one of the recessions, for which she is forever grateful (despite the lousy heat in the winter).

Among the varied attractions of the store was a wildly popular black and white photo booth which inadvertently documented the celebutantes, club kids and stars of tomorrow. The booth was not only a destination (and an excellent cheap date), but now has its own Facebook page.

One last note: when the store was closing, this former employee, who already had shoeboxes filled with photobooth strips from the store, had wanted to buy the contraption (and was shocked to realize that quite a few others had the same idea). However, SOMEONE’s husband “gently” reminded her that it would take up space needed for either the stove or the bathtub. Sigh.


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