Reported new Starbucks in Bremerton gets mixed response

“I know everyone will roll their eyes, but this location is perfect for me,” Heather Benza said.

A new Starbucks with a drive-through window appears headed for the former Bank of America building on 6th Street at Warren Ave. in Bremerton, a prospect that has delighted some, outraged others, and left many asking the question: does Bremerton need another Starbucks?

The building in question, built in 1970 according to city land records, has lain partly unused since its bank tenant left over a year ago, and a large “For Lease” sign has hung on its street-facing exterior. Permitting records with the city of Bremerton show a commercial building permit issued on January 22, 2019 for a coffee shop, and property owner Daniel Birk said the new tenant is a “national chain.” A report from the Kitsap Sun Wednesday said public records name Starbucks on multiple occasions.

Birk said the building currently has two tenants – an insurance broker and a law office. With ample room left on the first floor, he said he hopes another bank might move in to accompany the planned chain store.

“We strongly believe that a bank tenant would fit perfectly in the first floor,” he said. “It’s a central location.”

A new Starbucks would make for five locations of the international coffee chain in Bremerton, with the proposed site lying about half-a-mile from its nearest counterpart next to the Bremerton ferry dock.

Many expressed their support for the development of the unused building, which would contribute to the improvement of downtown Bremerton. They said they were happy to have a Starbucks convenient to their home or work, and one they didn’t even need to exit their car for, no less.

“I know everyone will roll their eyes, but this location is perfect for me,” Heather Benza wrote in a Facebook post.

With four kids that she has to shuttle to and from activities on a daily basis, the new store – which would be the closest to her house – would be a major convenience.

“Going in the opposite direction to grab coffee and find the line 12 cars deep is frustrating,” she said. “We’re in a rush, I’m stressed, and if I wait, we’ll be late.”

“Oh please let it be Starbucks,” Angela Dawson said. “I live right up the hill.”

Others took to social media to voice opposition to a new store, citing concern about competition with local businesses or what might be described as ‘Starbucks fatigue.’

“We do not need another Starbucks,” Courtney Upshaw said. “100 in Kitsap County is far more than enough! Let’s get something good in there that we don’t have locally.”

“Because that’s what we need…another Starbucks,” Heidi Pollard said, adding a flourish of eyeroll emojis.

“No more Starbucks. People get a life. Don’t need another one,” Heidi Pollard said. “Yuk.”

Bremerton is, in many ways, already a coffee drinker’s paradise – shops like Coffee Oasis, Hot Java Cafe and Juice and Java are all within a half-mile radius of the proposed site.

An employee at Coffee Oasis, a faith-based nonprofit that donates proceeds to help homeless youth, said that while Bremerton already has a lot of coffee shops, she was confident in her company’s product.

“We represent the best coffee in town,” Lancy Williams said.

Others expressed pointed concern about the impact on existing businesses.

“I have lived here all my life and support our local community and mom and pop coffee shops,” Upshaw said. “Starbucks is taking over.”

Denise Frey, who heads Bremerton’s Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit that seeks to promote member businesses and enhance the local climate for entrepreneurs, expressed support for the planned store.

“Whenever you have an empty commercial building and a business moves in, that’s cause for excitement,” she said. “I think that Starbucks is a good community partner, and certainly has a successful business. And coffeehouses are a community meeting place.”

Frey said that the Starbucks would increase consumer choice, something the Chamber values.

“I think that we empower consumers with choice,” she said. “What’s important is for local businesses is to determine what their niche is.”

Frey said the Chamber offers help to member businesses looking to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

“If local businesses are concerned when something like this happens, and they’re members of the Chamber, give us a call,” she said. “We’ll help them build their brand and attract more of their natural customers.”

Coffee drinkers in Bremerton certainly have plenty of choices – and it appears more are on the way. SEEFilm Cinemas, a movie theater about three blocks from the proposed Starbucks, is close to finishing construction on a coffee stand of its own.

SEEFilm Coffee Company is scheduled to open this spring, manager Teri Delker said.