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8th Starbucks to modestly perk Detroit presence

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit — It’s undeniable that parts of this city are steadily improving, just as sure as Detroit remains a Starbucks desert. That’s why the banner at the corner of St. Antoine and Monroe in Greektown is rare: Starbucks coming soon.

The new entry brings a total of eight Starbucks in the city limits, which is an all-time high for the Motor City. It’s an astonishing low number compared to any other major American city or suburb. There are more than 12,000 Starbucks in the U.S, according to information on the company’s website. In many cities, most are within a few blocks of one another. Not in the Motor City.

“It’s one of the big things you notice about Detroit,” said Raquel Yera, who moved from Cincinnati two years ago. That Ohio city of 296,000 — less than half of Detroit’s population — has 30 Starbucks within the city limits, according to the company’s online store locator.

“I don’t really miss them,” Yera said as she exited Cafe Con Leche Nord in New Center Tuesday. Cafe Con Leche is one of the many independent cafes that have filled Detroit’s Starbucks vacuum. “I’d much rather support a local business like this one,” she said.

“Most people have a love-hate relationship with Starbucks, you know?” Yera said. “But to not have them around is pretty weird. Just as much as seeing so many empty buildings.”

Retail analysts say the dearth of Starbucks is connected to all those empty buildings. Starbucks and other major retail chains say population density and foot traffic are needed to set up shop at any location. Many national retailers — Target, Kroger, movie theater chains — avoid Detroit and set up in the nearby suburbs.

Starbucks officials in the past have defended the company’s record in Detroit, contending they are one of few national chains to be in the city.

The Motor City’s eighth Starbucks is slated to open this fall. It will be part of the Greektown Casino-Hotel and will have its own separate street entrance. On Tuesday, the City Council approved some of the permits needed to complete the build out of the 1,800-square-foot store.