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Blue Door owner worries for lost community, not profit

On April 20, 2012

The announcement that a Starbucks coffee shop is coming to Greencastle was news to Sue Furr, owner of The Blue Door Cafe.

Furr read the story on the front page of the Greencastle Banner Graphic Monday morning - it told readers that the State of Indiana's Stellar Communities initiative will bring a new bookstore and Putnam County's first full-service Starbucks to the southeast corner of East Washington and Jackson Streets.

"I'm very happy they're doing something with the building - it's going to do so much for Greencastle. That's first and foremost," Furr said.  "But it's disappointing to know that's what DePauw thinks of us... like 'we want to make it better, but you're not good enough to do that,' kind of."

Furr had heard from the Greencastle Stellar Grants committee that her business was considered for the spot. She expected to be asked for a proposal, but didn't hear anything more from the committee.

The internationally-successful franchise was chosen to act as an "anchor," attracting more foot traffic and business to Greencastle's town square.

Vice President of Finance and Administration Brad Kelsheimer said that each "great college town" he has visited this past year to learn more about town-gown business relationships is launched by an anchor.

"We have some really good businesses on the square, but we need pedestrian density," Kelsheimer said. "This will kick it off. We need this."

So The Blue Door Cafe, which will be celebrating five years in Greencastle this August, will live two blocks away from a similar business that will be looking to attract the same customer base.

But Furr says she's looking forward to the competition.

"It will make us better, try harder to get the customer," Furr said. "We'll have to make sure we have the better product. The Blue Door goes one step further, and we're going to care for the community a lot more than Starbucks will."

She's proud that her café brings in local art monthly, acts a host to local musicians, music students and Girl Scouts and does their best to cater to the community. Furr also pointed out The Blue Door Cafe stays open late during DePauw's finals season, even if it's at a monetary loss.

On top of that, Furr said that her coffee beans are higher grade than Starbucks', and she uses a local importing company from Noblesville, Ind.

Current schematics for the incoming Starbucks show that it will work to create a similar atmosphere. It will utilize a "heritage" design, using decorations and pictures inspired by the surrounding community - which is unusual for the chain, Kelsheimer said.  He hopes local entertainment, local bands and tie-ins with the School of Music will define its atmosphere and bring both DePauw and Greencastle in.

"I'll still go to the Blue Door when I want a sandwich," said President Brian Casey, confident the incoming Starbucks offers something unique. "I think it's a different place."

Kelsheimer agreed, affirming the over-arching goal is to help Greencastle businesses. "We don't want to do anything to harm them."

That includes maintaining a "level playing field" by allowing the Starbucks to accept Tiger Express money, but not meal plan bucks.

Furr was firm in expressing she isn't worried about losing business, but rather wished the plan was to keep the "old and rustic" Greencastle.

"I was hoping the Stellar Community was going more that way - I think we're trying to get too modern in my eye," Furr said.  "It feels like we're losing our roots."

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