Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Quiet Passing of Kurios Coffee

Kurios coffee: 2003-2007.

A song of ascents. Of David.

1 How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!
2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down on the collar of his robe.
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.


Why must small, but good things die?

Kurios Coffee is an independent coffee shop set up by Joel Newton (a seminary student) at Denver Seminary. Sadly, Friday, March 16, will be its last day of service. Joel could not keep up financially, given the lack of patronage. This says several things about our culture.

Not enough students felt loyal to their own coffee shop. Servers told me of seeing many students with their Starbucks cups in the student center. The problem is not that students or faculty don't drink coffee, but where they buy it. In our mobile and in-transit society, the idea of loyalty to a place, to a locality, is rare. It is all functionality: get the coffee, quickly, and take it with you. McWorld strikes again, to the detriment of local, small-scale culture.

Another problem is likely that few students take the student center to be a place to regularly convene and converse. They are perpetually on the move. Years ago, one of my African students told me how surprised he was that students didn't remain after class to talk over the lectures. They did this for hours in Africa while he was in Bible school. Here, we are too busy, too frenetic, too much in-transit. Time is money, you know.

Now I'll have to remember to stop at Starbucks on the way to work--unless I ever get off the evil-wonderful brew. But thanks to Kurios Coffee for four years of caffenation and hospitality, despite its impending expiration. McWorld wins yet another round.

What is the answer to the octopus of McWorld? It is not socialism. It is not governmental regulation. It is conviviality.

14 comments:

Charles said...

Doug, I appreciate your work and have been moved by your views many a time. But, this whining is perpetually ridiculous. "McWorld?" Honestly. It's coffee. And to criticize Starbucks for its size is patently absurd.

The worst thing I can say about Starbucks is that it sold me something, and I enjoyed it. As for your friend, it's indeed a shame he had to close. But, to attribute this failure to some sort of broad moral or cultural defect cheapens an otherwise worthy exercise. And, even worse, smacks of an especially hollow elitism.

After all, there are many thoughtful people who might share your trenchant views on faith and society. But, God forbid, have divergent tastes in things.

Apologetics and philosophy are just as "interesting" over Starbucks as it is any other coffee.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Such harsh words should be owned by the author.

Douglas Groothuis said...

I am not blaming Starbucks, per se, but lamenting an overarching phenomenon of culture.

Susan said...

DG
Sadly, I think the way the student cafe was constructed may have contributed to the demise of Kurios. It is all tile and metal; very 'clangy' and reverberant. It is difficult to hold a conversation in there. I think people generally go elsewhere for coffee and conversation because of this. If the room were better suited, I think more people would meet with their mentors there, and people would go there for conversation more often. As it is, it is more like a hallway than a gathering place.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Susan:

I agree entirely. The ambience is not conducive to conviviality: too bright, metalic, hard, harsh, cold.

Timo_the_Osprey said...

Conviviality. A great word put to great use here.

Joel Newton said...

I enjoyed your thoughts on the demise. We would have loved to have seen it work at the seminary. The honest truth was that the enrollment would have to get near 1500 for it to be profitable. Thanks to all our faithful customers like the "constructive curmudgeon." Support your local businesses and not the global conglomerates.

Fletcher said...

My wife and I go out of our way to support local vendors and businesses, but we still see this happen all too often. The personalized service and care you get from the "small guy" is much better than you get from Big Corporate. Small business owners care more.

Perhaps we should all invest in Starbucks' stock to make enough profits to start our own small businesses? :-)

Craig

Brian said...

I'll happily criticize Starbucks for one thing: their coffee. I used to work in downtown Kansas City and watched as shop after shop who made excellent coffee either closed down due to lack of business or started cutting corners in order to save money and eventually churned out something akin to liquified cinders.

How Starbucks manages to do the same and make money I'll never know. The point is this: I doubt most people have had really GOOD coffee. They expect it to be bitter, or acrid, or covered up with flavorings and steamed milk (which brings out the sweetness of lactose). They've never had a freshly-roasted single-source coffee that tastes like it has sugar in it when black. Really, they're missing out.

It's lamentable how over-commercialization gets us acclimated to poor-quality products. I sometimes think that people in by-gone eras actually ate and drank better at home than we do in our outrageously expensive restaurants.

I'll tell you the best latte I ever had in KC was made by a guy working behind the bar of a greasy spoon diner which has since closed down. Now the only coffee shop I can think of that's open down there is Starbucks. Oh, and a Scooters, which I don't think is much better.

Small Group Guy said...

A Good book I recently read was The Gospel According to Starbucks by Leaonard Sweet.

He extracted one thing after another about Starbucks and why we go time after time and enjoy it. I do not see them as the McWorld. I see them as a business that is/was way ahead of their time in cultivating a place we can come for good coffee, conversation and atmosphere that is consistent and high quality.

hobie said...

I am tired of listening to whining about companies whose sole vice of conducting business better than anyone else is considered to be apocalytic evidence. Starbucks serves great coffee through a drive-through window. Why does this fact drive otherwise smart people to become caffeine communists?

I am drinking a Starbucks product now; strangely, I am reading the "The Way I See It" blurb, and it goes like this:

"Darwinism’s impact on traditional social values has not been as benign as its advocates would like us to believe. Despite the efforts of its modern defenders to distance themselves from its baleful social consequences, Darwinism’s connection with eugenics, abortion and racism is a matter of historical record. And the record is not pretty."

Author? Jonathan Wells. Everything white and green is not incontrovertibly secular.

John Stockwell said...

hobie wrote:
"Darwinism’s impact on traditional social values has not been as benign as its advocates would like us to believe. Despite the efforts of its modern defenders to distance themselves from its baleful social consequences, Darwinism’s connection with eugenics, abortion and racism is a matter of historical record. And the record is not pretty."

Author? Jonathan Wells. Everything white and green is not incontrovertibly secular.


...so I guess Starbucks is evil, afterall. :-)

Douglas Groothuis said...

Capitalist success does not equate to objective value. The most successful may not be the best. A company may dominate and not be better than its competitors. Good night, think of the jazz greats who don't sell, then think of Kenny G. The same applies elsewhere.

My concern is not that Starbucks is evil, but that it tends to humiliate local culture and its unique qualities.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Preach it, Doug!

I love your thoughts on this.

(Kind of sounds post-modern, though, with the slight, anti-corporate/anti-capitalist/pro-diversity undertone....)

This coffee thing might be one of the best grounds (pardon the pun!) for discussing western culture. I'm with you 100% on this one.

One does have to be appreciative, though for the impact Starbucks has had on introducing quality coffee. But it's time for them to go.