Coffee chain takes Hanover by storm

by Gus Lûbin | 10/12/04 5:00am

The spirit of coffee giant Starbucks has entered Hanover and the stage seems to be set for a showdown with the locally-owned Dirt Cowboy Caf.

The cafe in the newly-reopened Dartmouth Bookstore, which is operated by Barnes and Noble College Booksellers, serves a full menu of Starbucks drinks and coffee, although it is not a separate Starbucks franchise.

Still, in a town reputed to be hostile to the idea of chain-stores, the bookstore's proprietors were careful to quick to defend their choice of coffee.

"We are proud to brew Starbucks coffee because it is a good company and it makes good coffee, but we are not Starbucks," said cafe manager Kate Hookway.

The cafe does not sell Starbucks foods, according to Hookway, but rather pastries from King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vt. and sandwiches from Gondola Deli in White River Junction, Vt. The cafe also does not accept Starbucks cards, but it will soon accept Barnes and Nobles cards and Dartmouth Green Cards.

Dirt Cowboy owner Tom Guerra scoffed at the idea that the caf is not affiliated directly with Starbucks and said he doubted the two cafs could coexist in such a small market.

Guerra is confident, however, that Dirt Cowboy will win out.

"We are going to have to do all the right stuff--nuts and bolts stuff, but I think we have the home court advantage," Guerra said.

"Our prices are lower, our staff is better paid, our coffee is better."

Hookway downplayed the competition, saying that the two places serve different functions at different hours.

"We are primarily a bookstore, so people come here to drink while they look at books, read or socialize," he said.

The Dartmouth Bookstore cafe opens at 8 a.m. Monday through Thursday -- an hour later than Dirt Cowboy -- but it closes at 9 p.m. on these days, three hours later than its counterpart.

Guerra called these differences immaterial.

"They are either going to close--in which case I would be happy to run a cafe for them in the bookstore--or they are going to stay in business at a loss," Guerra said. "They can do that because they are a massive corporation--they can hope to wear me down through attrition, but that won't happen."

Hookway said he expects some kind of relationship to materialize as the new bookstore's caf becomes better known but he didn't elaborate on what that relationship might be.

At this point, many Dartmouth students are unaware that there is a place in town where they can get a frappaccino.

Briar Teron '08 expressed excitement when informed of the new caf. "I've gone to the Dirt Cowboy some over the past month, and I don't like their coffee as much as Starbucks'," Teron said. "I have some loyalty to Starbucks from home, so I think I'll switch."

Others plan to stick with the Dirt Cowboy. "I like the ambiance at the Cowboy," David Smith '08 said. "And I definitely prefer the pastries. Coming from Seattle, I'm pretty sick of anything Starbucks."