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Starbucks set to woo island anew

After a fitful, five-year courtship, the dandy of caffeinated delights looks poised to consummate its relationship with Bainbridge Island.

Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks will open a kiosk in the Village Safeway in late August, a Safeway spokesman said this week.

“I do know it’s definitely going in – they’re building it out here,” said Doug Dunmire, head grocery clerk at the store and the only manager available for comment.

Citing a corporate memorandum, Dunmire said the opening date has been pushed back a week to Aug. 25. The kiosk will sit next to checkstands near the south entrance, in an area now walled off for construction.

Interim city planning director Larry Frazier confirmed that a Starbucks has been approved inside the store, and a permit issued for plumbing improvements.

Apparently still coy is Starbucks itself, a spokesperson for whom would only say that the company has not yet executed a lease for a Bainbridge location.

“(But) we’re always looking for great locations to better serve customers,” the spokesperson said.

Starbucks has more than 150 kiosks in Safeway stores, but has had difficulties making a move on Bainbridge.

The company made overtures in 1998, announcing and then abandoning plans to set up shop in a Hildebrand Lane storefront.

Community debate ensued over the question of whether chain eateries have a place on Bainbridge.

That question has been at issue since 1989, when the city’s “fast food ordinance” was passed to prohibit other national chains from following McDonald’s onto the island.

The ordinance – which has been challenged in court, but never ruled on by a judge – now limits “formula take-out restaurants” to a zone on High School Road east of SR-305.

Starbucks returned two years ago with plans for a kiosk inside Safeway, but the plan went to the wayside for reasons that aren’t clear.

This time around, Frazier determined that the fast-food ordinance was not applicable.

“It’s no different than having a coffee setup of any nature, Starbucks or anyone else, in a Safeway store,” he said.

Judith Pertnoy, owner of Books, Bagels and Beans in the Village, said she and other local coffee purveyors – who lack the “big bucks” for marketing that Starbucks boasts – will count on the loyalty of their longtime customers.

“I think that Bainbridge Islanders are smart enough to know a good cup of coffee,” Pertnoy said, “and they won’t find it at Starbucks.”

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