A Tale of Two Coffee Shops

Or: David and Goliath meet for espresso

Starbucks log 50Several months ago my husband came home with exciting news. The empty Taco Bell near our house was going to be a Starbucks. This made us ridiculously happy, even though we live a comfortable distance from four—count ‘em four—other Starbucks. Yeah, we’re suburbanites.

Our shiny new coffee store was finished by Christmas. In January I began meeting there twice-monthly with my writing partner Shannon, and quickly learned a few things. First, the sun pours in on the south-facing seating area and keeps it uncomfortably warm. Second, most of the tables are tall, with barstool-style chairs. These are not ideal conditions for an hour-long meeting.

That’s when I made a discovery. While America’s favorite coffee chain was settling into its glass box, a local coffee shop named Revocup had opened just a few yards away. I set out to investigate.

Revocup signThis is the second location for Revocup. The company’s founders are Ethiopian natives on a mission to share their native coffee traditions. They roast a range of single-origin beans for truly fresh coffee and espresso drinks. They also sell coffee beans by the 12-ounce bag.

Revocup interior 30
Revocup Coffee on 135th Street

Here’s the really special thing about Revocup. Having seen first-hand the deteriorating condition of coffee farmers in Ethiopia, the company has chosen to give back. A portion of every sale goes to fight poverty in Ethiopia. They have also proven willing to work with good causes in our community. My first exposure to Revocup beans was a fundraiser for my daughter’s marching band.

Shannon and I found the Revocup dining room more suitable for our meeting. The tables are lower, the temperature cooler, and the whole setup feels more spacious. But I am not entirely discounting good old Starbucks. Last Sunday morning I shattered my coffee pot, and the Starbucks drive-through was a lifesaver. Revocup does not have drive-through service.

To my local readers, I issue this challenge. Try them both, and tell me what you think.

If you don’t live in my neighborhood, answer me this: Local or Starbucks, and why?



  1. I am trying to buy local as much as possible. This is not always easy on the pocketbook, but in the case of coffee shops, I do prefer the spacious (and often less-assuming clientele) of the independent locales. I especially enjoy The Groundhouse in Gardner.

  2. I like to support local enterprises, too. Especially businesses with a seemingly good heart as the one you’re describing. Unfortunately, I’m not nearby and I’m not that much of a coffee drinker.

      • My favorite restaurant (which serves the best decaf coffee–tells you I may NOT be the best person to ask about coffee) also serves some of the best pie, morning sweet rolls, coffee cake, scones,…(you get the idea) to go with it. Unfortunately, it is not near you. Carolyn’s Essenhaus (run by the dearest Mennonite woman) is in a tiny town in south central Kansas: Arlington. A rainy spring is the best time to drive through the Flint Hills on your way to visit that part of the state. When there is enough rain, the Flint Hills’ grassland looks like a rugged version of Ireland. Road Trip!

      • Thanks for sharing! I’ll put it on my list. Good decaf is hard to come by, since it’s usually more bitter than regular coffee. And I love the Flint Hills in any season.

  3. It’s hard to deny the fact that we live in a go, go and go some more culture. While Midwesternites might move a bit slower than our big, BIG, city cousins, we still value convenience. Starbucks has a drive-thru. What can I say to improve on that? However, fast and big is not quality. It’s not quality product. It’s not quality friendliness. It’s not even quality economics. Sure, places like Starbucks provide lots of jobs which equals income spent locally. But the majority of their revenue goes out of town, out of state, and into the pockets of big CEO’s.

    Local coffee shops mean a chance to slow down, get to know people, network or just share a secret corner coffee shop (the kind tourists wish they new about) with other locals who are also ‘in the know’. Try knowing the names of the produce stocker, the waiter or waitress at your usual restaurant, the barista at your corner coffee shop. They are your neighbors. They have stories to share. You don’t have to be computer savvy, or learn what LOL means, and you don’t have to decipher a pictograph text message.

    So, the next time you have some time, sip into your local owned coffee shop. Support a local barista artist and learn a name or two. Become a neighbor and share your story. Become part of each other’s story.

    • I couldn’t have said it better, Linsey! Though I must add that my husband has his favorite Starbucks, the one he stops at every morning on the way to work. He knows the names of the baristas and the manager, and they know his regular drink. He values the sense of community there. It’s always the people who make or break a place.

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