By Michael McDowell
“It’s the last day. We should have something to say about that,” said Ethan Schneider, one of the authors of a petition to save the Starbucks at 338 Columbus Avenue, on the corner of 76th Street.
“I definitely have that ‘nostalgia for the present’ kind of feeling,” Teddy Cohn, another author, supplied, in a midday nod to postmodernism.
“It’s not the last day that will be weird, it’s the first day after that will be weird—we’ll probably keep walking into the door like robots,” Michael Schertz added.
“That will be weird, that will be really weird,” Cohn agreed. “The three of us will probably act like we don’t know each other—or maybe we really won’t recognize each other outside of this context. It will be like a complete alien disfiguration.”
“Maybe we’ll all change our appearances, too,” Schneider considered.
Jokes aside, Cohn, Schertz, and Schneider had petitioned Starbucks, as well as former CEO Howard Schultz—who may run for president in 2020—in a Hail Mary effort to convince the company to keep the store at Columbus and 76th Street open. This store was one worth saving, the three argued—a “legitimate neighborhood resource.”
Although their petition received well over 500 signatures, Starbucks remained unmoved. The store would close that day, January 31.
Despite the impending closure, the mood inside was somewhat festive. The authors planned to treat the employees to pizza, and from behind the counter, complimentary hot chocolate made the rounds.
Employees will be reassigned to locations throughout the city, a few on the Upper West Side, some downtown, others to the Bronx. “We are sombre,” an employee said. “I’ll miss everyone, but we are keeping our jobs.”
What do employees think of Schultz’s prospective campaign for president?
“I like it. I feel he’s grown tremendously as a person, and he’d definitely be much better than what we have now,” one said.
“I’m still sad about Hillary Clinton,” another sighed.
“It’s a shockingly benighted, vanity-fueled absurd enterprise,” Cohn assessed. “It’s a disastrous venture. I have nothing against him ad hominem, or personally, I think he’s perfectly fine, whatever it means to be fiscally conservative, socially progressive—I think that’s a rich person’s fantasy—but the effects will be disastrous downstream, he’ll end up being like a Vichy collaborationist or a Ralph Nader collaborationist with the interests of Trump. Inadvertently perhaps. He’s probably a fairly honorable fellow on his own; that’s not the issue.”
Closer to home, Schertz expressed concern over the growing number of empty storefronts on Columbus Avenue.
“In six months or a year [after the closure], it’s going to be just like this: empty,” he predicted.
“That’s a real issue, whether this adds to the ghost town, the ghost-towniness of Columbus Avenue,” Cohn nodded.
A number of vacant storefronts pepper this piece of Columbus, a heavily trafficked strip within sight of the American Museum of Natural History.
But on the same block as the Starbucks-not-long-for-this-
Schneider plans to relocate to a Starbucks at 2140 Broadway, at 75th Street.
Cohn and Schertz remain undecided.
“At the end of the day, it’s been a nice ride: I’ve made some really good friends, I’ve had a place to work, I’ve met some really nice baristas, so I can only say ‘thank you,’” Schertz concluded.
“Thank you, next!” Cohn chimed in, referring to Ariana Grande’s recent hit. “I like that song.”
So was this really a special Starbucks?
A former employee, Frank, stopped by that day. “He’s one of the people that made this place a home,” Schertz noted.
Frank, following a medical absence, had requested a transfer to a store closer to home, in Parkchester. Cohn had visited him in the hospital.
“It was a total surprise when you walked in, you know that? My mom and aunt are looking at this guy, like, who is this?”
“It was some love,” Cohn said.
“Absolutely,” Frank concurred.
On February 1, butcher paper covered the windows, and the store’s letters had been removed.
Photos by Michael McDowell.