When comedian Louis Black performed at the Smith Center in August 2002, he claimed that the end of the universe was in Houston, because it had a street where a Starbucks was across from, alas, another Starbucks.
Little did he know that another black hole would pop up on the 2100 block of H Street, where the Marvin Center Starbucks is diagonally across the road from the newly opened Gelman Library Starbucks.
After years of planning and five months of construction, GW’s fourth branch of the coffee house empire opened its doors to the public two weeks ago on the ground floor of the library. University officials and Starbucks representatives said they are excited to meet student demand for a conveniently caffeinated study break.
“The interest of the students (in a Gelman coffee shop) has gone back years,” said Andrea Stewart, assistant librarian for administrative development and personnel. “It affords students who are studying here the opportunity to get some coffee and mingle with each other.”
The Gelman store is one of four Starbucks locations in University-owned buildings; the other shops are in the Marvin Center, 1957 E St. and the GW Hospital. With additional Starbucks shops on 22nd and K streets and 20th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, the chain operates six branches in immediate proximity to Foggy Bottom.
“We are filling the need and voices that we heard from campus leadership that they wanted Starbucks to be a part of the campus community,” said Starbucks’ mid-Atlantic marketing specialist Amanda Marx. “We need to operate additional stores to provide quality customer service.”
Some student customers said they enjoy the perks of the new Gelman caf?, while others questioned the necessity of another on-campus Starbucks across the street from the Marvin Center.
“(The Gelman Starbucks) is bigger, it’s got couches, and it’s more comfortable than J Street. It’s a good environment to study in,” graduate student Basak Kaya said.
Kaya added that the ever-present crowds at other Starbucks locations demonstrate the high demand for coffee on GW’s campus.
“The seating is always full in other Starbucks. Now, if you get fed up studying, you can always come down here,” she said. “It’s like a reading room with coffee available.”
But junior Liana Galardi said she is sick of the growing Starbucks monopoly.
“I would prefer if there were independently run coffee shops all over, but it’s convenient to have these around campus. I thought of boycotting (Starbucks), but I decided to just get over it,” she said, a Starbucks coffee cup in her hand.
Marx said the demand for coffeehouses tends to be higher in city centers than in other suburban or rural areas, and that the numerous Starbucks branches on and near campus also cater to D.C.’s working population. Washington, a city with about 600,000 residents, has 48 Starbucks coffeehouses, almost all of them situated in the Northwest quadrant. New York, with 8 million people, has 149 outlets of the Seattle-based coffee shop chain.
“GW is unique in that it is in the heart of downtown business along K Street and Pennsylvania Avenue,” Marx said. “While GW students are an important part of Starbucks’ customer community in this area, we also open stores near the campus to serve the heavy daytime population working in this area.”
The new store is also equipped with the University’s GWireless Internet service, which is free to members of the GW community, as opposed to the T-Mobile Hot Spot wireless Internet that can be used by customers for a fee at other Starbucks locations.
Stewart said the Gelman store, which is leased to and independently operated by the coffee chain, is a valuable addition to GW’s central library, with a portion of the rental fees paid by Starbucks to the University going to directly benefit Gelman’s improvement.
The Gelman Starbucks will remain open until midnight Monday through Friday but will close earlier on the weekends. Stewart said she hopes the store will eventually become a 24-hour venue.