When Starbucks is everywhere, it gets on people's nerves, and the coolest among us talk about the coffee giant in terms of derision usually reserved for such behemoths as McDonald's and Wal-Mart.
But put those same people in a place Starbucks has not yet blessed with its presence, and they wonder why they've been left out of a cultural phenomenon, why they are not worthy.
With mapping being the Internet's toy of the moment, it was inevitable that someone would plot out the world according to Starbucks, and the results for this part of the planet are as eye-opening as a doppio espresso.
The map created by MapMuse.com shows 177 Starbucks outlets in the D.C. area, with thick clusters in downtown Washington, along the Red Line up Wisconsin Avenue and Rockville Pike, around Arlington's Metro stations and out Route 7 in Fairfax, in Old Town Alexandria and along the Dulles corridor. What's missing: Prince George's County, where the map looks like a decaffeinated desert.
In the blogging world, where people have boundles time, a new game uses the company's online store locator to determine how many shops lie near you. Your Starbucks Density Score measures the vibrancy of your location.
For example, there are 169 Starbucks outlets within five miles of 45th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan, and 72 that close to my office at The Washington Post. There are 81 Starbucks close to Rep. Jim Moran's home in Arlington and 33 near Supreme Court nominee John Roberts's place in Chevy Chase.
But Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson can count only three Starbucks within five miles of his Mitchellville abode, and Police Chief Melvin High has just three near his Bowie home.
The District became Starbucks' first East Coast market in 1993 because the city had the highest concentration of customers who ordered the coffee from Seattle. Now the stores are ubiquitous. The Onion, the satire paper, used this headline: "New Starbucks opens in restroom of existing Starbucks."
But in Prince George's, only 11 Starbucks, including two in affluent Bowie and two near the University of Maryland in College Park, serve 850,000 people. Montgomery has 32 shops.
"There's no reason Prince George's shouldn't have more," says Kwasi Holman, president of the county Economic Development Corp., which recruits retailers.
As Prince George's became the nation's most affluent majority-black county, residents still had to travel beyond the county to shop. Although Prince George's has more households with incomes over $100,000 than Anne Arundel or Howard, those suburbs each have two fashion department stores (Nordstrom and Lord & Taylor), while Prince George's has none.
On paper, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties are similar. About a third of adults in each has a college degree, far less than Montgomery's 59 percent, but that hasn't kept retailers out of Anne Arundel. Many Prince George's residents say the only remaining explanation is race: The county is 65 percent black, while Anne Arundel is 14 percent black.
Starbucks says its slow pace in Prince George's has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the lack of the big-box shopping centers that the chain prefers for its suburban locations. And the big boxes have stayed away because of fear of crime, developers say.
Jeff Ellison, a 20-year resident of Prince George's who is Starbucks' regional director for most of Maryland, says the problem is that developers "read the paper about Landover and Suitland and they don't realize that this is the home to the most affluent African-American community, so they shy away from building big shopping centers. But that's changing."
In the next year, Starbucks plans to open five outlets in Prince George's and only three in Montgomery.
"We could have had more stores in Prince George's," Ellison says, "and now we're actively looking for more locations. We were first in Forestville and in Oxon Hill, even though there was very little retail there."
"It's not an issue of reluctance anymore," Holman says. "We have old shopping centers, but that's changing quickly. Deals are being made."
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