Starbucks aficionados mobilize to save Amherst cafe

  • —Scott Merzbach

Staff Writer
Published: 3/10/2019 6:58:13 PM

AMHERST — Each morning for the past few years, Ralph Gilmore and Ted Fay drop in at the Starbucks in downtown Amherst for a coffee, to catch up on what’s going on in town and to be at a restaurant welcoming to everyone.

“Inside here, this is a community,” said Fay, who on Friday morning sat across from Gilmore at their customary spot near the main entrance of the 71 North Pleasant St. cafe. “There is a certain visceral feeling here. We refer to it as this place has a soul.”

Most importantly, they see a cross-section of Amherst’s population drop in, from college students and senior citizens, longtime residents and visitors, people who own and rent their homes, and even those who live on the streets.

“There’s a very rich diversity in patrons here,” Fay said

“That’s one of its strengths — it’s welcoming to everybody,” Gilmore said.

But Fay and Gilmore, along with Rob Simpson, are part of a group of patrons worried about the future of this Starbucks, after store management informed some customers that the location is slated to close this summer.

Starbucks manager Scott Roe said he and other employees have been told the store will close sometime in June, though there has been no official word on the exact date, nor have any reasons been given for the closing.

Starbucks has been in the heart of Amherst since 1996, when the company renovated the space previously used by Cafe DiCarlo restaurant.

Even though there are several downtown coffee shops in Amherst, many independent and locally owned, the men note that Starbucks has been their home, and replicating this elsewhere will be near impossible.

That has prompted them to form The Keep Starbucks in Our Community Committee

“There is a strong effort to prevent this store from closing,” Fay said.

With 3,000 signatures on a petition prominently displayed on the counter, the committee has contacted Starbucks corporate leaders to try to find out why the location might be closing. The petitioners wonder whether it is not as profitable because, unlike the Hadley location, it doesn’t have a drive-through window, or whether the lease terms became unreasonable.

“It’s so much bigger than we didn’t hit our bottom line, or the rent went up,” Simpson said.

Another rumored concern for Starbucks corporate leaders is customers are discouraged because the sidewalk in front is one of the more popular places for panhandlers to set up.

“We were dumbstruck as to why it is closing,” Fay said, noting that it could be a part of a national consolidation for Starbucks.

Gilmore said he knows the employees have been well treated, making it easier to patronize a chain restaurant.

“We feel OK about being at a store that provides benefits for generally part-time employees who are treated well,” Gilmore said.

“Starbucks does something very different here, which is beyond the scope of what many Amherst businesses can provide,” Simpson said.

Amherst Business Improvement District Executive Director Sarah la Cour said even if the town loses Starbucks, it would still have a good mix of coffee shops that have food and beverage at a range of price points.

“We’re sorry to see them go, but everything is cyclical in a downtown,” la Cour said.

La Cour is also confident that any vacancy wouldn’t last long because the building is fully handicapped-accessible.

“It’s a beautiful space, an awesome location,” la Cour said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

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Northampton, MA 01061


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