The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Competition coming to Charleston

Keith Bliss’ greatest fear is the small market.

The owner of Jitters and Bliss is afraid when a national coffee chain opens in Charleston the market will not be big enough for his shop.

Bliss has owned Jitters and Bliss for six years and has known that a national coffee chain could potentially come to Charleston for the last two.

“In a lot of bigger markets, a Starbucks comes into town and everybody does all right because there are more consumers drinking coffee,” Bliss said. “Charleston folds up for three months of the year and it’s a very small market. If I had a concern over anything else, it’s that.”

While the announcement of a national coffee chain might excite some students, Charleston’s coffee shops have to prepare themselves to compete with a multinational corporation.

A national coffee chain will be a part of a commercial center that will include a pizza chain and a hair salon. The other space in the center is still being decided.

The commercial center is being developed by Coldwell Banker Commercial Devonshire Realty of Champaign and will be built on the northeast corner of Lincoln Avenue and University Drive.

Over the last two years, Bliss has slowly moved from a coffee shop to focusing more on sandwiches because, Bliss believes, a national coffee chain could take some of his customers away. His plan is to diversify his shop so he can compete.

“I’m not going to diminish as far as the coffee goes, but I am gearing my advertisements more toward food,” Bliss said. “That is the direction we are going.”

Jitters and Bliss offers a catering service and does barbeques for events and also makes ice cream and gourmet sandwiches along in addition to coffee, he said.

“When you’re in a business, you always have to be thinking outside the box,” Bliss said. “If you’re standing still, you’re going backwards. I’ve tried to run the business as if Starbucks was right next to me.”

Facebook frenzy

Sophomore Chris Kromphardt is against a national coffee chain coming to Charleston and is afraid that a coffee chain will draw business away from the local shops.

Kromphardt is one of 92 members of the part of the “Charleston needs a Starbucks like I need a hot latte down my pants” group on, which is against a national coffee chain coming to town.

Facebook also hosts the “Charleston needs a Starbucks” group, which is for a national coffee chain coming to town with 249 members.

“These big names offer nothing to the consumer other than over-hyped coffee at a higher price than a local shop,” said Kromphardt, a political science and philosophy major. “Students need to face the reality that Charleston is a small town, and big city institutions like a Starbucks will have nothing but adverse effects on the community.”

Tony Reeley, a manager for Jackson Avenue Coffee, said that the competition that a national coffee chain brings is not a horrible thing.

Competition forces everyone to try and make their product better, he said.

Jackson Avenue offers live music throughout the week and has an open mic night every Thursday night.

Jackson Avenue Coffee also has a more sit-down atmosphere where costumers like to relax, Reeley said. In a coffee chain like Starbucks, the costumers seem to be on the go, Reeley said.

“I think a lot of people that come to Jack come because they like the atmosphere, and that is something chains can’t always provide,” Reeley said.

Owners Ryan and Dulcy Dawson were not available for comment because they are on a mission trip in Hawaii.

Better because of the hometown feel

Common Grounds in Mattoon also offers live music on the weekends and had a similar situation when Our Daily Bread Cafe opened across the street.

“They basically copied everything we did, but it only made us better because we worked really hard to maintain the customers we had,” said Common Grounds owner Mindy Cordes.

The competition that Our Daily Bread Cafe brought proved beneficial and Cordes even opened another Common Grounds a year later at Lakeland College, she said.

Cordes has owned Common Grounds since 1998 and is looking forward to the coffee chain coming to Charleston.

“I think a national coffee chain is going to make us look better because we have ties to the community that they don’t have,” Cordes said. “We have more consistency and we are able to offer more variety than the chains do.”

Common Grounds sponsors a girls’ little league team and supports a variety of other events in Mattoon.

Cordes believes hometown businesses have the ability to establish personal relationships with the customer – something a national coffee chain cannot do.

“The chains don’t know the customers by name and know their families,” she said.

Cordes agreed with Bliss’ concern that Charleston’s market might not be big enough to support the local coffee shops. This is especially because Charleston’s business dries up during the summer, Cordes said.

She said all the smaller shops can do is work harder and look for creative ways of doing business.

Without competition, however, Common Grounds and any other local coffee shop would not be able to shine because the customers would not have anything to compare, Cordes said.

“If you’re not up against anybody, you’ll never be able to shine,” Cordes said. “I welcome it.”

Booming with business

Mayor John Inyart believes the national coffee chain and the upscale commercial center will attract more businesses to Charleston.

“I think it will have a positive effect and a snowball effect,” Inyart said. “I’m optimistic that will very well happen.”

Inyart said the local coffee shops in the area like Jitters and Bliss, Jackson Avenue Coffee and Common Grounds, have done a good job of creating their own, unique image.

“If you have more people doing the same thing, then that piece of pie is split more ways and everybody’s piece gets a little smaller,” Inyart said. “I think that there is probably business in town for all of them and it will be part of the natural process that happens anytime a competitor comes to town.”

Competition coming to Charleston

Competition coming to Charleston

Jackson Avenue Coffee Shop worker Kymber Elsenpeter, a junior psychology major, pours a blended coffee drink on Wednesday evening. “It makes me nervous, but I think that we’ll keep our townie customers, for lack of a better term,” Elsenpeter says in res


Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

Commenting on the Daily Eastern News web site is a privilege, not a right. We reserve the right to remove comments that contain obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language. Also, comments containing personal attacks or threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
All The Daily Eastern News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest