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Just because you’re a hotshot,


don’t blow off doing your homework!


      I recently noticed two free-standing specialty coffee kiosks gone from two strip mall parking lots I regularly pass. The business owners — a franchise I believe — are no doubt fretting that they made a bad investment decision, probably blaming the economy. 

     But the truth is much more obvious. They simply didn’t do their homework. They thought they had an idea that was so spectacular that it would work anywhere: Starbucks-style coffee on the go at drive-up booths in busy shopping areas. You do know the word “assumptions” is spelled “T~R~O~U~B~L~E” ? Apparently, they did not.

     What they overlooked (by not doing their homework) was that you can’t set up shop for a retail establishment of any kind that specializes in expensive, exotic coffee in shopping areas (no matter how much traffic) that boast boarded-up storefronts and are primarily frequented by welfare and food stamp recipients, in a poverty-stricken state.

     Even in good times in a rich state (are there any of either of these left?), to charge $3-$6 for a cup of coffee-to-go approaches the cusp of gouging, and is best left to major parkway service centers and sports stadiums where captive audiences will pay the piper. 

     So these owners knew they had high-traffic areas, but never checked out shopper profiles. And even this would have been obvious had they had their scouting eyes open: junk-heap cars and trucks, and shoppers in Salvation Army-style clothing ear-marked the parking lots.

     Of course it’s possible that these owners might have thought they were so entrepreneurially sharp that they could sell ice to Eskimos.

     Compounding the issue was that perhaps they saw nothing off-putting about cars lined up at these one-person kiosks, having pulled up because there wasn’t time to stop at WAWA or 7/11, waiting in bumper-to-bumper lines for some tweep to order a fat-free, candy cane brandy latte with 3 shots of carmel splash espresso, and skim milk with real whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon… 

     And even that bit of customer aggravation would be resolvable and — in some neighborhoods wouldn’t matter anyway — if some value-added benefits were made part of the waiting time (not unlike the idea of Starbucks laptop connections).

[Don’t get me wrong here, I am not endorsing Starbucks; I don’t like their operations, their rip-off prices OR the taste of their over-the-top coffees; they are simply a convenient example.] 

Bottom line: Realtors beat it to death, but they are right! Location is indeed critical for every (even in-home) business. But if you fail to do your (complete) homework and don’t think through the strengths and weaknesses of any potential location, you do it at your own peril.”

     If the business has promise, excuses don’t cut it when hotshot entrepreneurs run it into the ground. Specialty coffee –in the right locations — can still command big bucks in this economy. Stupidity cannot. 

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