A Starbucks location — complete with ample seating inside and a convenient drive-through window — opened in the village of Lawrenceville, across from both WildFlour and the Gingered Peach in September, 2015. Marilyn Besner of WildFlour says that she notices that more take-out customers coming into her store, which offers strictly gluten-free and vegetarian fare, are now carrying Starbucks cups. But most of her business is eat-in. Joanne Canady-Brown’s Gingered Peach bakery, on the other hand, is a more direct competitor. It was a mere nine months old when Starbucks debuted. Here, in her own words, is how she responded.
Our afternoon business dropped about 22 percent, and then it rolled to 28 percent because they could seat 45 people. I have 11 chairs, so the kids from the prep school who were coming in the afternoon and chilling and having drinks and meeting up — they’d come in a group and six of them would sit, four would stand and they’d talk and that was cool. Now, 40-some seats just opened across the street and so now they’d just be going to go over there. But it was OK because I had done a projection of what I thought we were going to lose. And that’s what I saw begin to happen. I began analyzing our peak times, and once I knew what they were I decided to start throwing all our resources behind supporting peak time. Rather than worry about what was lost in one segment, we’re going to strengthen [the times] when we know we’re still going to get business. And that strategy worked! As a result, our peak time jumped 40 percent, which offset the afternoon loss.
Are there ways we’re going to try to compete with them in the future? Absolutely! But for right now, I’m happy with where it is. And we see a nice split. We see people go, ‘I’m going to get my sugary coffee drink over here at Starbucks, but then I’m going across the street to the Gingered Peach to get what I actually want to eat.’ And we’re cool with that! People come in and whisper to me, ‘Is it OK if I come in the door with a Starbucks cup?’ I laugh and say, ‘Of course!’ I tell them that I get it. Yes, Starbucks did impact us, but you can’t sit on that stuff! Not as an entrepreneur — not as a woman especially. You cannot feel sorry for yourself! You lick your wounds.
Plus, I knew it was coming. It’s not like the Starbucks sign went up and I freaked out. Before I signed the lease, my landlord [Gary Hullfish] told me it was a possibility. At that point it wasn’t a certainty, but it could happen. So I went home and thought it over. And my husband — he is the hugest cheerleader in the whole world and I could not do any of this without him — said, ‘Forget them! We got this! We’re going to destroy them! We’re going to kill it!’ My husband’s an engineer and his job is solving problems for a living. So for him, it was just a problem to think around. When I sat down and crunched the numbers — and I love numbers! — and saw the data, I knew the Gingered Peach would work. Then the week of our grand opening there was so much excitement around it, I was overwhelmed by the support.
Nine months down the road we had data to look at. We could see what was happening, and the awesome thing about the people who come to the bakery, or even are in this neighborhood, is that everybody really has a schedule! They are predictable! You don’t know exactly what they’re going to buy, but you know when they’re going to come. It was easy to look and see, ‘OK, customers are surging us at these specific times, and here are the steps we’re going to take to get them in and out faster. So I invested heavily in labor, in another coffee machine, newer pots, more of this and that, and the result is we’re turning faster. I asked my bakers if they could start an hour earlier, and they agreed. So the product began moving faster. Starbucks was beating us not in product quality, but in convenience. We don’t have superpowers to put into convenience, but we applied what we could. And it really helped.