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The Antelope

The Antelope

Our coffee cup runneth over: The oversaturation of coffee shops in Kearney

Starbucks Barista

Alex Hammake
Antelope Staff

UNK students will notice that one there’s one less building on South Second Avenue when returning for school in 2022. 

The Former El Maguey Mexican restaurant, which previously stood at the corner of Second Avenue and Eleventh Street, was razed over the winter break. In its place, a new Starbucks location will be built, becoming the second standalone Starbucks location in town, and the fifth location in town. Starbucks locations are also inside the Student Union on UNK’s campus, inside Target and in the Crowne Plaza Younes Convention Center.

The new location adds another coffee shop to a rather oversaturated market. The City of Kearney (est. pop. 35,000) now boasts seven corporate coffee shops, whether they are Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or Scooter’s Coffee. That number will increase to eight once the fifth Starbucks location is completed. This number doesn’t include locally owned coffee shops nor the convenience stores and gas stations that sell coffee as well.

But how do other towns in Central Nebraska stack up to Kearney? Surprisingly, this is a Kearney only problem. Hastings and North Platte, which are roughly 1/3 smaller than Kearney and have their own college populations, have one of each coffee shop. However, the number for Grand Island is shocking. Grand Island is roughly 1/3 larger than Kearney, and also has one of each coffee shop, however Grand Island will add a second Starbucks location soon.

In defense of the latest Starbucks construction, the chain is merely copying the business model that most of the fast food chains in Kearney have implemented: Build one store for interstate traffic, and another for the rest of town. For Starbucks, they’ve expanded that model towards building to cater to their specific markets.

I give credit to Starbucks. They found a growing market, and are jumping at the chance to expand their market share in a town with tremendous upswing like ours. However, is it all for naught? Over eight coffee shops are expected in towns like Lincoln or Omaha, not Kearney.

Given Nebraska’s current hyper-competitive job market and unemployment rate under 2%, it’s hard to already justify another Starbucks in town if there won’t be the workforce to service the store. Interstate drivers and those who enter Kearney from the South are first exposed to a Scooter’s Coffee when they get off the interstate and turn on to Second Avenue, and they will pass by both Dunkin and Starbucks before they see Barista’s Daily Grind, the southernmost locally owned coffee shop on the same street. 

Let’s not forget to support and patronize our local coffee shops as we watch yet another Starbucks being built in town. They offer the same product as the corporate stores, with local ownership and your profits staying locally. Local stores are always willing to support the Lopers and our college. Nick’s Gyros who is donating one day’s profits to Hinwa Allieu’s family and Barista’s Daily Grind who are providing drink vouchers for the Holiday Pottery Sale have done so recently. It’s a rarity for corporate chains to support their community in that way. 

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