Saying goodbye to Starbucks on Church and Gerrard

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By Charlize Alcaraz

The Starbucks on Church and Gerrard streets permanently shut down on Jan. 31 as part of Starbucks’ plan to close up to 300 locations in Canada.

The plan is part of the company’s “transformation strategy,” introduced last year in response to “changes in consumer habits during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The transformation strategy will include new drive-thru locations, expansion of delivery and curbside pickup-only coffee shops. 

Students who were frequent customers said the closure came as a shock and disappointment. According to these students, the coffee shop just off-campus was more than a place of convenience where they could grab their favourite drinks, but one that held special memories.

“It’s hard for us graduating this year because it just feels like another slap in the face,” said fourth-year English student Shany Raitsin. “You don’t get a graduation ceremony, and you have to do [online] school, attend zoom university, you can’t see any of your friends—and by the way, we’re shutting down your favourite Starbucks.”

She said she owes her current relationship in part to the Starbucks location, as it’s where her partner first asked her out and where they would frequently meet. Raitsin said it was “their place.”

“That’s where we fell in love, that’s where everything happened…I feel like my entire life revolved around that Starbucks.”

Julia Edmiston, a fourth-year film studies student, said the Starbucks was where she found her friend-turned-roommate. “We would go to Starbucks before class, get [drinks] and we ended up living together for two years,” she said.

“I feel like my entire life revolved around that Starbucks”

The Starbucks at 66 Gerrard St. was its own “little community” as much as it was a staple in Ryerson’s campus culture.  Fourth-year film studies student and former barista Arnaud Weissenburger said he’s going to miss seeing people at the store and the personalities that they bring, including his regulars. One of them called him “Starbucks man.”

“He would come in [on] Sunday mornings, and at one point…he pointed to me and he was like, ‘This guy. He’s Starbucks Man. I see him every morning,’” said Weissenburger. “To be that kind of person to somebody, for a minimum wage job, is kind of cool.”

Weissenburger never had a chance to say a proper goodbye to the store and his co-workers. He flew to Los Angeles to be with his family in March of last year and returned to Toronto just one day after the store was permanently shut down on Jan. 31.

“Just seeing the Starbucks that I worked at, [windows] covered in [Kraft paper] and with a rental sign…I felt kind of sad,” said Weissenburger. “That was my Starbucks, that was my store, that’s where I know everybody.”

The company plans to finish all store closures that are part of the transformation strategy by the end of March.

“As we navigate through the COVID-19 crisis, we are accelerating transformation plans to address the realities of the current situation, while providing a safe, familiar and convenient experience for our customers,” said CEO Kevin Johnson in his announcement

Starbucks said stores that are up for closure will be “in conjunction with the opening…of a greater number of new, repositioned stores in different locations.”

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