Opinion: Scratching the coffee-after-dark itch

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If you’re a true coffee junkie, you may not have noticed or cared that Starbucks raised prices at most outlets this summer.

The chain raised prices between 10 cents and 20 cents on all sizes of brewed coffee at the majority of its 8,000-plus company-operated stores across the country.

Fair enough.

We get it.

I love Starbucks and rarely pass up a chance to grab a cuppa.

But here’s the thing …

There’s no way I’d mind the little extra change if Starbucks would just stay open long enough to do me any good.

In fact, that’s the problem with so many of our countless coffee outlets, whether they’re huts in parking lots or actual spiffy restaurants like Thomas Hammer.

If I’m out running errands or doing an interview that ends at 9 or 9:30 in the evening, I want some java.

But since we roll up the sidewalks here in Kootenai County around 8 o’clock, generally I’m out of luck.

For instance, the Safeway store at Neider Avenue and Government Way is open until 11, but the Starbucks stand inside the place shuts down around sunset.

Or maybe it’s right after lunch.

Grrrrrrr …

And that, boys and girls, is why I’ve fallen head over heels for Dutch Bros coffee havens.

There are three of them in the county — Post Falls on Mullan just a block from Highway 41, Coeur d’Alene on Northwest Boulevard, and at the corner of Government Way and Hanley Avenue.

Dutch Bros is a modest chain that originated in Oregon, and as far as I’m concerned, they came up with a brilliant strategy right off the bat.

Open early.

Stay late.

IN FACT, our local Dutch Bros locations each begin service at 5 a.m. and they’re still handling customers who are lining up until 11 p.m.

Hooray for that.

I’ll gleefully wait behind a couple other cars at 10:15.

“I’m not sure why so many other coffee places have much shorter hours,” said Dutch Bros barista Kara Carpenter. “We do a lot of business in those hours when the others are closed.

“You don’t have to sell much coffee to pay for the lights and having somebody here.”

Carpenter shuttles back and forth between locations, and she’s really partial to her dawn customers in all the stores.

“You get to know the 5 a.m. people,” she said, “and there are a lot of them. We see the same ones over and over.

“Where else would they go for coffee on their way to work?”

I’ll freely admit that as a committed night owl, I’m not likely to see Kara — or any other living human — within shouting distance of 5 a.m.

The Dutch Bros business plan, though, also calls for keeping the places open on the other end.

Now that’s made me a fan, and also …

I agree with Kara.

With so many people all over the Northwest totally hooked on coffee, why do most of the other outlets shut their doors and miss a lot of business?

Don’t know.

But my car can find a Dutch Bros café mocha without much help.

Ahhhh …


Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

A Brand New Day appears Wednesday through Saturday each week. Steve’s sports column runs on Tuesday.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com.


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