LOCUST — Passers-by couldn’t help but notice the sign at Red Bridge in Locust announcing that a Starbucks was “coming soon,” as the news immediately drew a wide variety of views and comments. Many are excited that a well-known national coffee chain is coming to town, and what that says about development in the western part of the county, while others are concerned that the area will lose its local character if this and other chains move in.
Locust city councilman Mike Haigler confirmed on Facebook that the sign about a coming Starbucks was “not a hoax, or a wish,” and that “City officials have been informed of a developer putting in a building beside McDonalds. Part of this building will be for a Starbucks.”
His post was shared nearly 40 times, as people in the area reacted to the news. Many people who shared or commented were simply excited to see the popular chain coming to the area so they could have another place to get their morning coffee. Requests for a new grocery store in addition to the Starbucks were common.
Others, like Alexis Hughes, a real estate agent in the greater Charlotte area who is active in Stanly County, connected it to larger growth in the area, saying, “As development in the Charlotte area continues to climb, big chains are heading to the outskirts! Locust, NC is getting a Starbucks!!!!!!”
But this growth in western Stanly County is not seen in a positive light by everyone in the area. Some see the Starbucks, and the fast growth in general, as a threat to the small-town charm Locust enjoyed and to existing locally owned businesses.
One commenter said people should keep “money within our county to support our businesses;” another asked, “What about our small businesses in Locust that provide amazing coffee and jobs for us now?” And still another said, “Goodbye small town. Small businesses will soon be gone too…”
Haigler made clear to those commenting that he and the city council are not able to pick and choose which businesses are allowed to locate there if an area is zoned for commercial use.
“We can’t discriminate as to what business is allowed to build in that area … the city doesn’t get to pick and choose what companies are allowed in Locust … that is illegal.” Haigler said. “Locust has grown due to its proximity to Charlotte, Concord, and Monroe … and its main flow on NC 24-27. It’s a fine line we walk … trying to hold onto our small-town values while growing and providing quality services to the community.”
Another common concern was Starbucks’ outspoken political views and activism, which have tended to lean left.
A law enforcement officer posted that the chain “made themselves quite clear where they stand in the law enforcement conversation,” so he “won’t spend a dime there,” and even in Haigler’s original post, he said he’s “not a big fan of Starbucks political stances.”
He added that due to his new role in planning and zoning for the city, he would be aware of information as it came out and would “keep everyone posted.” At the moment, the “permits have not been pulled to build yet,” so he said “conditions could change.”
According to Haigler, they do not know what the rest of the development will be yet. It’s about 8,000 square feet, with 2,500 for the Starbucks and the rest listed for now as retail.
With the N.C. Department of Transportation reporting “20,000 to 24,000 cars a day on 24-27,” mostly commuting to and from Charlotte for work, the area would likely see enough traffic to sustain a popular chain coffee location.
A Starbucks media relations staffer, Daniela, told SCJ on Jan. 4 that, “Unfortunately, we have no additional information to share about a potential location in Locust.”