Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Starbucks on the SouthCoast.

I'm currently enjoying a restful and uneventful visit home with family. The old neighborhood hasn't changed much, but the landscape is still a bit different than I remembered. Until earlier this year, my parents could look out their kitchen window into what appeared to be limitless woods; the backyard view still includes a few trees, but thanks to a new condominium development it now includes a few houses as well. Renovations to Old Rochester Regional High School have changed my alma mater almost beyond recognition. Tonight the local cable access channel aired an installment of Bulldog TV, a student-produced program reporting on recent goings on at ORR; segments featuring teachers I remembered provided reassuring continuity, but the classrooms and hallways seen on the show were disconcertingly new to me. When Bulldog TV turned its attention to the laptops the school apparently now issues to students, I started to feel like an old-timer. Using laptops at school was an unimaginable prospect when I was at ORR. If memory serves, when I was at the school students had access to a lab with perhaps a dozen computers with word processing software - it bears noting that none of these machines had Internet access (there were only two computers in the school that did, and students weren't allowed to use them). Though I'm only in my mid-twenties, the access to high technology that today's teenagers take for granted strikes me as remarkable.

On this visit, I was surprised to discover that Starbucks has arrived in Southeastern Massachusetts. The coffee retailer's local presence is pretty paltry - limited to a couple coffee shops and a kiosk in a mall - but Starbucks' appearance in these parts is still a major milestone. Justly considered the heartland of Dunkin' Donuts, Southeastern Massachusetts reputedly has more Dunkin's locations per capita than anywhere else in the world. Until recently, this area in which one could seemingly find a Dunkin' Donuts on every corner had literally no Starbucks to speak of; I realized what a unique situation this was when I came to live in other places where Starbucks locations were seemingly omnipresent while Dunkin' Donuts outlets were either rare or entirely absent. It'll be interesting to see what Starbucks' arrival on the SouthCoast will mean for the region. I suppose that Starbucks could chip away at Dunkin' Donuts local dominance, but I'm also reminded of what happened when Red Lobster opened a restaurant in North Dartmouth about a decade ago - in an area flush with popular locally-owned seafood restaurants, Red Lobster flopped on the SouthCoast. Time will tell whether the same will happen with Starbucks.

In a related story, actor Michael Vale died on Christmas Eve at age 83. As the man who played Fred the Baker in innumerable Dunkin' Donuts commercials in the 1980's and '90's, Vale became the face of the chain. When I was a kid, I thought that Fred the Baker was a real person, not a fictional character played by an actor. Remembering the Fred the Baker ads with the "time to make the doughnuts" tagline, I also recall my many early experiences with Dunkin' Donuts, like enjoying a box of Munchkins every week while watching Saturday morning cartoons. Fred the Baker and Dunkin' Donuts were a part of my childhood, so the death of Michael Vale strikes a chord. Ave et atque vale.

After an enjoyable but - as always - too brief visit home, tomorrow morning I head to Chicago for the annual Chicago and Detroit Provinces' Jesuit Formation Conference. Right after the start of the new year I move into the St. Ignatius Jesuit Community and begin my Long Experiment at SICP. I'll try to post an update sometime in the next few days. However, if you don't hear from me, let me say it now - Happy New Year! AMDG.

1 Comments:

At January 07, 2006 5:18 PM, Anonymous Jake said...

Had no idea that the "time to make the donuts" guy passed away! May he rest in peace.

 

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