Starbucks invades the South Side

By Garth Johnston

Starbucks appears to be getting over its fear of the South Side of Chicago. The Seattle coffee giant may soon be adding two more branches in the South Side, increasing its total of stores south of Illinois Avenue to three.

Starbucks has signed a non-binding letter of intent to rent out the currently vacant Hyde Park storefront at 1174 East 55th Street, next door to Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap. In addition, just last month the City approved the company’s plan to build a $1.4 million freestanding store with parking on 71st Street and Stony Island Avenue.

The 53rd Street Starbucks is currently the company’s sole store in the South Side, with the exception of the Starbucks inside the University of Chicago bookstore.

The 55th Street space, which formerly housed a dry cleaner, is about 11,000 square feet, according to Jo Reizner, the director of real estate operations for the University, which owns the building. Reizner said the storefront makes perfect sense for a new coffee shop, though the school had not specifically courted Starbucks. “We didn’t go searching for them, they sought us out,” she said, “but we’re delighted.”

Everything is still in early negotiations, however, and Reizner warned that despite the company’s real interest in the space it’s still too early to tell if “Mocha Malt Frappuccino’s” will be rubbing shoulders with Jimmy’s.

Starbucks could not be reached for comment by press time.

And as for what the neighboring Woodlawn Tap thinks, owner Bill Callahan told the Hyde Park Herald, “I think it’ll be good to have something in the space. I think their coffee is probably a lot better than ours, so that can’t hurt. We’re not known for our coffee.”