Coffee & Company closes doors quietly

Division Street corner café shut down Friday after six years serving students

The Coffee & Company on Division Street closed Friday after six years.
The Coffee & Company on Division Street closed Friday after six years.

The Coffee & Company on the corner of Division and Johnson streets closed on Friday. On Friday evening, the café’s windows were prepared and a sign on the front door said, “Dear Customers: I would like to thank you for your business. It has been a pleasure seeing you! Please join us at our Princess St. location, 53 Princess at King.”

Coffee & Company management and staff refused to speak to the Journal.

With the closure of the coffee shop, Emily Wilkins, ArtSci ’08, said she now must resort to the Common Ground for her coffee.

“I’m here because [Coffee & Company] was closed,” she said, standing in line at the Common Ground yesterday morning.

Without her usual stop en route to campus, Wilkins hasn’t had time to get coffee before her 8:30 class.

“Which is why I’m not really awake,” she joked.

She said Coffee & Company was her shop of choice for several reasons.

Atmosphere is a big one.

“Sometimes the music is blaring here,” she said of the Common Ground. “It’s just right there.”

Wilkins, who lives near the corner of Brock Street and University Avenue, said the café’s location was also ideal.

“It’s not totally on campus, but it’s close.”

Wilkins spends most of her time on campus, she said, so it’s nice to have a place to go to get away for a caffeine fix.

But taste is the biggest factor for her.

“I find the coffees and teas are just better.”

She said she began to worry about Coffee & Company two years ago when Starbucks moved in across the street.

Wilkins said she only found out yesterday that her daily dose of caffeine would have to come from somewhere else but she doesn’t know if advertising the closure would have done much good, she said.

“It’s hard to know what to do about it except to keep going to the coffee shop you like.”

Laura Railey, ArtSci ’10, said taste is also the primary reason for her choice of caffeinated beverage.

She thinks Starbucks drinks are better.

She said there are also more options to accommodate her lactose intolerance. Starbucks offers lactose-free milk as well as soy milk.

“I appreciate that [Coffee & Company was] a small business and I don’t necessarily support mass corporations like Starbucks, but I just prefer the drinks.”

Kurtis Barber, a Kingston resident, said this is an example of corporate takeover.

“Obviously supply and demand’s running out.”

He also said the demographic, and not the corporation, could be to blame.

“Maybe it has nothing to do with Starbucks—look at the Goat.”

The downtown branch of Starbucks, which opened in 2004, is just two doors away from the Sleepless Goat Café, a workers’ co-operative.

The Sleepless Goat has been located on Princess Street since 1994.

Paul Saulnier, a worker at the café, said he doesn’t think Starbucks has had a large effect on its business.

“Our business is kind of funny—we have a lot of local support and we’ve been here for a long time, so I haven’t really noticed too many people switching,” he said.

“Coffee & Company is still pretty different from the Goat. People have been coming here forever.”

School of Business professor Ken Wong said the Starbucks next door was probably a factor in Coffee & Company’s closure, but other coffee shops, as well as factors such as rent rates, probably contributed to the closure.

He said as a medium-sized chain, Coffee & Company is in a difficult position.

“It’s not large enough to compete against the big boys and yet it’s not small enough to be that intimate, unique one-of-a-kind experience under which we’d forego something of what Starbucks brings to the party in exchange for that unique experience,” he said. “Starbucks always wants to destroy the competition but it’s not a case where they went in and massively cut prices or had all kinds of student specials on in an effort to outspend the competition.” Wong said Coffee & Company probably could have done more to stay competitive.

“If I were Coffee & Company, for example, I might have made a bigger deal of the connection to Queen’s,” he said. “I might have been a stronger sponsor of some Queen’s-type activities, maybe even named a coffee drink after Queen’s.”

—With files from Kerri MacDonald and Anna Mehler Paperny

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