• 50 Years - A Million Thanks
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Store Wars

Is the proliferation of national retail chains in Manhattan changing the character of the city? Independent pharmacies have been replaced by Duane Reades, while small bookshops have yielded to Barnes & Noble super stores.

Photo of Starbucks Starbucks is one of the city's greatest retail chain success stories. With 168 stores in New York, the coffee conglomerate has changed the city's culture of coffee drinking.

But many independent coffee shops are also thriving, and fighting to take business from their larger competitors. The Mudtruck is an orange coffee truck parked in Cooper Square on Astor Place, across the street from two Starbucks. As co-owner Greg Norhtrop explains, the location is intended to send a "you sunk my battleship" sort of message to the competition, that "we're offering an alternative to you." Northrop cultivates a clientele that "doesn't go with the convenient thing."

Photo of coffee But one thing the Mudtruck doesn't offer is a place to sit down. As one Starbucks patron commented, "it's expensive to buy a cup of coffee and walk in and out, but for me you know it's cheaper than rent." Sharon Zukin, Brooklyn College professor and author of Point of Purchase believes that "Starbucks ... sells an atmosphere. People in New York have warmed to Starbucks ... as a new version of the old Italian or Latino Café where people can go and hang out."

Zukin thinks that owner-operated stores that give New York its unique character will continue to thrive on into the future. "We will see more one-story stores ... and more neighborhoods reclaimed by small shops opening up and revitalizing their commercial strips."
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