Bright Lights, Big City. Starbucks is coming to Maidenhead!

So its official.

The start of the 'metropolisation' of Maidenhead has begun: Move over New York and London, Starbucks is coming to Maidenhead.

Or at least thats one way of looking at it.

When I try to describe what Maidenhead is like, Starbucks is one of the first things I seem to mention.  As in 'We don't even have a Starbucks'. (For the record, I'm not a Starbucks obsessive and I don't actually drink coffee). Its just that sometimes Maidenhead can be a bit of a contradiction- just 25 miles west of Charing Cross and with a population of over 60,000, but we don't seem to be a destination point for many of the large retailers. Yet.

I know that there are plans afoot for great things with The Kings Quarter and Crossrail, but I don't think we should forget about the rest of us that are living here now, and will be here through all the transitional period over the next few years.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all in favour of local retailers- its great to have Java Coffee here and I'm pleased to see that Montagu's Tea Room has opened up on Queen Street serving some amazing cakes and afternoon teas. (If I spy they start doing a dairy free option I'll be hot footing it in there!) Moreover, its fantastic to see new shoots of life in the town as opposed to shop after shop closing down and another Pound Shop sneaking in. As the 'worlds largest coffee house' (their words, not mine) with 806 branches in the UK and 200 of them with a London postcode, you can't deny that Starbucks is extremely popular and will be a footfall driver for people going into the Nicholson Centre, whether its pulling in all of the workers from the local businesses or providing a destination hub for the mums to catch up with each other, its definitely going to add a bit of buzz to the town centre.

But then I also wonder if this is the start of something else. The homogenisation of the High Street. The kind of thing that Mary Portas would inspire an army of retail fanatics into action over. Save our Local Shops! Are we going to look back on this in 4 years time and think, 'Ah, it was all right till Starbucks came along'. (I certainly might be feeling that way about my bank balance as the £2.79 cups of Chai Tea Latte sneak in there once again!)

If we currently had a flourishing high street full of independent retailers in Maidenhead then I might be tempted to agree. But we don't, we have a mixture of national brands, boarded up shops, charity shops and pound shops. For independent shops and schemes like the Craft Co-operative to survive they need customers. And ideally affluent, 'don't mind spending £7 on two coffees' kind of customers. And for that I think we should be giving Starbucks in Maidenhead a warm welcome.

So I'm going to stick my neck out and say I'm pleased that Starbucks is coming to town. I feel confident that there are lots of people that want to see Maidenhead flourish, and having recently met our Town Manager from 'Enjoy Maidenhead', I feel that its in safe hands. Maybe, just maybe, we can have a busy town centre where local and national retailers flourish.

Although we might need a bit more parking. But thats a whole another debate!

What about you? Where do you sit on the Starbucks Fence?

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