Starbucks closes Tuesday afternoon for training; many shops offer free or reduced coffee

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by Erin Albanese | The Grand Rapids Press
Press Photo/Dave Raczkowski


Stephanie Hoffman makes a Mocha Caramel Chill at the Biggby Coffee store at 5795 Byron Center Avenue on Monday.


WYOMING — A sign on the door of Starbucks Coffee at 2355 Health Drive tells customers the shop will close from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday for training.


“Great espresso requires practice,” the sign read. “That’s why we’re dedicating ourselves to honing our craft. We’re taking time to perfect our art of espresso.”


Meanwhile, across the road at Biggby Coffee, 5797 Byron Center Ave., staff is gearing up for a busy evening to take advantage of their chief competition leaving the field for a few hours Tuesday.


Everything on Biggby Coffee’s drink menu will be free – but only during the same hours of Starbucks’ training.


Starbucks’ nationwide “Art of Espresso” training session is part of an effort to transform the company, and Biggby is using the three-hour window to lure Starbucks’ fans to cross the street, literally in some cases, to try its coffee, said Tim Hoffman, who owns two of the 16 Grand Rapids area locations.


Hoffman said he came up with the idea. The Grand Rapids area stores are the only participating in the free coffee giveaway, he said.


The Biggby chain was founded in East Lansing, changing its name from Beaner’s last year. It has more than 80 stores in nine states.


“We have a good opportunity in front of us when one of our major competitors is closed,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to reward our customer base and attract new customers to give our brand a try,” he said.


Amy Meringa, of Byron Center, said she may just stop at Biggby tonight tues night if she’s jonesin’ for a cup of joe.


“I always go to Starbucks unless I have a Biggby coupon because I’m always looking for a deal,” she said outside the Starbucks at Metro Health Village. “Starbucks never has coupons.”


Kaylyn Kale, also of Byron Center, said it makes good business sense but she’s remaining loyal.


“I am hooked on Starbucks,” she said.


Also taking advantage of the Starbucks’ void, Dunkin’ Donuts announced it “wants to ensure that no coffee lover is denied a delicious espresso-based beverage.”


The world’s largest coffee and baked goods chain said it will offer s a small latte, cappuccino or espresso drink, hot or iced, for 99 cents from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday.


Starbucks managers at several of the 14 area stores declined comment, directing questions to a corporate media line.


“We’re not allowed to talk to the media,” said store manager Marcia Pivens.


Calls to Starbucks corporate media line in Seattle were not returned Monday.


Starbucks President, CEO, and Chairman Howard Schultz, president, CEO, said in an e-mail posted on the official Starbucks Web site the training is part of a return to basics, a “return to all-things coffee,” including the elimination of warm breakfast sandwiches, and cutting 600 non-retail positions, 220 which are actual layoffs.


Seattle-based Starbucks has 16,000 stores and 170,000 employees in 44 different countries. In the country 135,000 employees will receive the training to make better espresso drinks.


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