Starbucks addicts, unite.
That’s the message of Barbara John of Hilton Head Island.
She wants her coffee shop back, and she wants Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson to know it.
The Starbucks store at Sea Turtle Marketplace burned Jan. 21. It was in an old bank building, with the novelty of a vault room complementing its overstuffed chairs and sofas. It was kind of like a hip living room filled with pleasant strangers.
“It was our community, and it is gone, and we don’t know what to do,” Barbara said.
She knows she’s not alone.
“We all are a mess without our second home full of people we know and love, yet know not their names,” she said.
“A group of us are trying to get the word out to other Hilton Head Island Starbucks addicts to meet on a defined date for a large group photo in front of our Starbucks remnants.”
She said the goal would be to post it on Facebook, perhaps a Starbucks Facebook page, which she’s convinced CEO Kevin Johnson reads.
“And the word will spread from there, hoping the masses join us,” she said. “We’ll do anything to get that message out to them.”
When or if that Starbucks store will be replaced is unknown. The Starbucks press office did not answer my emailed questions.
A cold, metallic fence surrounds the crumpled building, a cruel image to the Starbucks addicts. Shiny new or remodeled buildings nearby house Stein Mart, PetSmart and West Marine. More stores are coming to the next generation of what we used to know as Pineland Mall when it was built in the middle of nowhere before the likes of Starbucks came to cater to a now-bustling island.
For Barbara, it doesn’t help that there is a Starbucks location on the south end of Hilton Head, and in grocery stores and Barnes & Noble. They’re not the same. Not as convenient. Certainly not as homey.
She’s getting her fix of double tall lattes with no foam at the Starbucks in Kroger.
But it’s like watered-down Sanka compared to buzzing over to Starbucks with maybe eight friends after spin class at Beach City Health and Fitness. And all the baristas know you and what you want. And a familiar group of men smile and nod. And maybe you bring your pet dog if you’re going to sit outside.
This place opened when Starbucks and the idea of high-ticket, exotic coffees and teas and such was a novelty. And it quickly blended into the community fabric.
One islander who took a great loss in the fire is artist Judy Blahut.
Eleven of her works were on display as one of the Art League of Hilton Head’s rotating exhibits at the Starbucks. One of the paintings survived the fire, but it was kind of melted. It was in the vault room. The store manager returned it to the Art League office.
Judy’s art is organic to Hilton Head. Her acrylic on canvas and paper is what she calls “seeing the unseen.” The exhibit was part of her “Fractured Shells” series, which she is feverishly trying to redo in time for her exhibit in April at the Art League gallery.
She breathes life into things that are left for dead along the shoreline of Port Royal Sound. She wants to bring an awareness to the space and environment around us that we should explore instead of rush past. She explores the beauty broken shells, which she said is a lot like spelunking.
Judy was walking on the beach when she heard that the Starbucks burned.
It’s one thing to let your art go to an admirer, she said, but quite different if is is suddenly destroyed by a harsh and permanent fire.
“It’s like a knife was stabbed into your stomach,” she said.
Her first reaction was anger and grief. But then the wildfires that leveled entire neighborhoods in California were in the news, that helped bring perspective.
Her art was just one piece of the Starbucks puzzle, now scattered across the floor.
On TripAdvisor, customers commented on its friendly staff, comfortable couches, large area to sit, and cozy and intimate atmosphere.
One person wrote: “My husband is retired and writing a novel, mostly done at this location.”
Barbara, the Starbucks addict-activist, thinks the place was everything Starbucks claims to want.
Are you listening, Kevin Johnson?