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Country Club Hills Says Goodbye to Starbucks

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Starbucks just announced a six-point-seven million dollar loss in the 3rd quarter. In its new earnings report, the company says it will spend nearly 168 million dollars to close stores around the country. For some communities and coffee drinkers, saying goodbye to Starbucks means a lot more than saying goodbye to caramel frappucinos.

I'm standing here outside the Starbucks in Country Club Hills, Illinois. This is among the first to close as part of Starbucks' larger plan to shutter 600 stores. Its windows are papered over. There is a thank you and our sincerest apologies sign on the window. And there are crews here, taking the iconic green Starbucks lettering off the side of the building. The building is a generic brick strip-mall type structure. It's new looking.  In fact, the Starbucks only opened here in May of last year. It's right next to the enormous Wal-Mart parking lot which is where I wind up breaking the news to Starbucks fan Melody Mallin. 

MALLIN: What? You're joking…You're joking, right?

Mallin got coffee here many days on her way to work. she lives right down the street.  This is her closest Starbucks. Mallin says she liked the coffee—liked the people who worked here and she says she's sad to see it go.

MALLIN: Every time I went there were people reading, book groups were going there and meeting. It was a nice place to sit there and hang out. And—there are really not many places out here in Country Club Hills to do that.

This community is solidly middle class. This south suburb of Chicago is, like its name hints at, looking to make good. It calls itself the Crossroads of Opportunity. Losing the Starbucks means losing ground.

FIELDS: County Club Hills is a place that new business, existing business can grow. And I think with Starbucks leaving it does set a a kind of mixed feeling for someone looking at Country Club Hills saying….hmmm…well if Starbucks couldn't make it I know I can't make it. And that's just not true. Starbucks didn't give us a chance.

That's Tracy Fields, the president of the Country Club Hills Chamber of Commerce. Fields says it's not just that it sends a bad sign to businesses considering the area, it's also frustrating for people who live here.
FIELD: I like to shop where I live. I like to shop where I work. And I like the convenience. I do not feel that it's necessary to take my dollars outside of my community to give them to another community when we have the space, location and traffic here to support it here.
A spokeswoman for the city says its Economic Development Commission is going to start a write-in campaign to corporate Starbucks. Both the city and the chamber of commerce say the town would happily welcome the coffee shop right back if the company changed its mind. 

In a written statement the company says it used several criteria to decide what stores to close—including locations that weren't profitable and those that might not provide “acceptable returns in the foreseeable future.” The company wouldn't get into any specifics about the reasons the Country Club Hills store was closed.

Out at the former Starbucks location—it doesn't look like it'll be reopening anytime soon. The Starbucks signs are already down now, there's hardly a mark on the brick exterior. Customer Darice Goodwin pulls up in her car with her nephew looking to get some apple cider. She's surprised to see it closed.

HILL: What do you think it means for the neighborhood, for the community? GOODWIN: I don't think it means anything for the neighborhood. I think it says a lot for Starbucks. Maybe people just aren't buying that expensive coffee as much. 
HILL: What about you...have you cut back?
GOODWIN: No...laugh...No. 

Now she's got to find somewhere else to buy her beverages.

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