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Farewell Homewood Caribou Coffee

Word of the closing of Caribou Coffee in Homewood is spreading like wildfire. This particular resident is not happy about it.

GAAK! My favorite spot for Not Being In My House is "The Bou."  My Bou—Our Bou, the , where brilliant ideas are born and wonderful thoughts are thunk.

After 87 years in town (okay, not really sure of that exact number) the Bou is closing its doors this Sunday, May 20th. The employees were just informed Wednesday.  A village board member, who came in Thursday morning with a group for coffee and discussion, found out when she ordered her coffee. 

It was a corporate decision not to renew the location's lease.  Evidently, providing a place for people to sit and relax and kibitz for two hours over one cup of coffee is not making them a ton of money.  Here's why that's a stupid argument for closing the store: that's the culture of not just every Caribou I've ever been in, but of every stinking coffee shop in the universe.  You sit, you sip, you linger and you leave.  Eventually.  This morning, there were only two empty tables available.  Thursday morning, there were only two empty tables available.  By the afternoon, there were 17 cars in the parking lot. Okay, so someone was cheating—there were only 14 people in the store. But still, 14 people at a time? Pretty good for a little coffee shop.

Bonny Manning is, for me and for who-knows-how-many-others, The Face of Caribou.  She greets people warmly when they come in and says goodbye to them when they leave, even with a little regret.  She truly does want you to have a nice day and come back soon.  Manning, whose last shift is Friday and then has to start looking for a job on Monday, said that Caribou's training encourages that sense of friendship and camaraderie, one of the things she likes about the company.

"They worked hard for that environment," she says, still a little stunned.  "They wanted us to make you feel better when you left, than when you came in.  I believed in that."

The Caribou "vibe" is one of cushy couches and fireplaces and tables printed with chess boards. CHESS IS NOT A QUICK COFFEE ACTIVITY. If you want to push people in and out of your store in a retail flurry of activity, it's probably best not to encourage them to play a game some people drag out for years.  Seriously, the longest game on record lasted 20 hours and 15 minutes. The last 116 moves were only a rook and a bishop chasing around another rook. Come on! Give up already! And buy another cup of coffee!

The loss of one more gathering place in town (Tom's, Neilsen's) represents much more of a loss to our community than a tax base. Due to both the physical atmosphere (quiet, sound-absorbing wood-lined walls and completely-not-too-loud background music) and the friendly, caring staff, Caribou has come to meet the needs of many different demographics, and ends up showcasing the diversity of age, race, gender and socioeconomic means that this great village and its neighbors offers the South Suburbs. We love our homes, but it's essential for a person to have a home-away-from-home. Like Cheers!, but with less alcohol and less Cliff.

If you're like me, you're tired of hearing about protesters and demonstrations this week, but even so, I would encourage you to contact some corporate-type people at Caribou and let them know that spreadsheet-based decisions impact real-life people.  You could even just cut and paste my letter, below, and email them. I have tried to pack as much psychological pain and suffering into one letter as I think someone there may be willing to read through before setting it aflame and lighting a cigar with it, like some sort of Dick Tracy villain. Wait, it's an email, and you can't set fire to the paper that's not there. Darned technology age!  Ruined my universally-evoked visual icon moment.

Michael Tattersfield, the Company’s President and CEO, had some interesting things to say last year about the growth of the company, namely, they're growing and rolling out new stores this year, and have identified Chicago, specifically, as an under-served area. Additionally, first quarter net sales are up over 10% this year, so what's the problem? No drive thru? Maybe they will be approached by the Village of Homewood and encouraged to consider a more suitable location? Let us hope that is true, and you might want to mention that some Saturday morning at the Village Hall.

So, I implore you to shop early and often at "the Bou" between now and Sunday.  If you get something in the morning you can go back in after 2 p.m. with your receipt and get half off your afternoon delight.

 

OPEN LETTER TO CARIBOU COFFEE, Inc.:

My Dear Caribou Coffee,

You have made a decision to close our local store in Homewood, Illinois.  You gave the staff five days notice. You gave the community five days notice.  Whoever made this decision needs to realize that communities and real people are impacted by this closing.

This location is very important to our community and has served us well. It has brought us together in ways that no other business in town has—there are gatherings where business is done on neutral turf, a secret half-hour time off for stressed parents, students of all ages studying and seniors finding a place to matter to other folks. Writers come here to write, and families come here to hear live music. The staff has always engaged the customers and residents as friends, as family, and in so doing, have made many of us loyal enough to never think about stepping into the other coffee establishment in town's three locations. Caribou is a unique experience, as it has set out to be.

All those wonderful phrases and mantras you print on your cups and napkins and retail products? All those things happen here, in Homewood.  Community and wellness and joy. And your commitment to sustainability?  The next closest Bou is 5 towns away from us. None of us will be biking to that location.  None of us will be walking to that location. There is no public transportation that takes us there. You were correct in identifying Chicago as an under-served area for Caribou outlets. As such, we implore you to search our community for another location, one with a drive-thru option, and re-open to the thunderous applause of many.

It's disappointing to have a business pull out of any community, but this is a particularly harsh loss. We're losing so much more than a coffee store. We're losing a part of ourselves. 

We wish the best for the staff who has taken care of us so kindly, and hope that our village will actively work with you to search for another location in town that may serve you better.

Yours Very Sincerely,

Patricia Lundstrom, Homewood, IL 

Contact Info:

Caribou Coffee Company, Inc.
3900 Lakebreeze Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN  55429

Corporate Office
8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. CDT, M-F 
763-592-2200

Customer Service / Caribou Cards
8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. CDT, M-F
1-888-227-4268

Road warrior May 25, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Good riddens! No de-caf, high prices, hard in/out of lot, high employee turnover, boring food choices, no skim milk. Could not compete.
Frank Thome May 25, 2012 at 11:18 PM
I loved the Homewood Caribou location & I don't even live there. My guess is this has more to do with the South Burbs than anything else. Sadly, restaurant chains don't perform well there. Sorry the Bou left.
Judith McGee May 27, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Some, but not all, of the Caribou Coffees in downtown Chicago serve food (i.e., breakfast sandwiches, grilled cheese etc.) The store near 20 North Michigan does not, but the one at 55 West Monroe does. I haven't seen a lot of these items sold, either. I think Caribou is going through a confused time (unfortunately on our dime).
Bonnie Sporn May 29, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Hi Susan, It's Bonnie Sporn from Spornette International. Just wanted to correct you on your comment about the 'former Spornette factory' on Harwood. We are alive and still in business at 18240 Harwood Ave. My grandfather, Walter Sporn, started the hair brush company over 60 years ago and we've been at this Homewood location over 40 years. Check us out at www.spornette.com. I hope Caribou comes back!!
Susan Dudik May 29, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Bonnie @ Spornette, my mistake and apologies! The sign's been up since we moved in, in 2009, so I figured your company had relocated. Of course, we normally walk by there in the evenings so it would make sense that everyone's gone home by that time.

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