Caribou Coffee to Close 80 Locations: Grounds for Change

Caribou Coffee to Close 80 Locations: Grounds for Change
The original Peet's Coffee opened in Berkeley, CA. on April 1, 1966.

This week Caribou Coffee announced that they will be closing 80 under-performing stores on Sunday, April 14.  However, as of today, they have not released the names of individual stores that will be closing.

For now, the official statement from Caribou's Mike Tattersfield, president and CEO of Caribou Coffee is:

"Over the past few months, we at Caribou have revisited our business strategy, including closely evaluating our performance by market to make decisions that best position us for long-term growth.  With that, we will be closing 80 underperforming stores on April 14th, and an additional 88 coffeehouses across Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Illinois and Eastern Wisconsin will be converted to Peet’s Coffee & Tea locations over the next 12 to 18 months. Going forward, Caribou Coffee will be made up of 468 locations across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Western Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina, Denver, and ten international markets. While the decisions we’ve made have been difficult for our team in Minneapolis, as well as our team members across the country and our guests and fans everywhere, we are working to make this transition as seamless as possible for the Caribou community. We look forward to continuing to deliver extraordinary experiences to our guests and fans, and thank everyone for their passion and commitment to Caribou. For any questions, please contact 888.CARIBOU."

The rumor mill has been buzzing as to closings while individual stores have been notified if they will close or remain open and be converted into Peet's Coffee Shops.  After talking to local shops and other unofficial spokespersons, SMC has put together a list of what it looks like will be taking place in the Chicago market:

  • Most downtown Chicago Caribou locations will remain open and be converted to Peet's Coffee Shops by 2015.
  • Stores in Long Grove, Lake Forest, Northbrook, Winnetka and one of the two Oak Park locations will remain open.
  • Stores in Arlington Heights, Glenview, Rolling Meadows, Vernon Hills, Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg will close Sunday.

What perking?

With more than 330 million cups of coffee a day consumed in the U.S., coffee is big business and even bigger in Chicago. Chicago leads the nation in coffee spending--with the average household shelling out 2.94 times the national average at city coffee shops.  New York City is nipping at our heels in second place spending 2.9 times the national average.  Surprisingly, Seattle comes in number three with San Francisco and Los Angeles rounding out the top five in fourth and fifth place, respectively.

The Future

The constantly evolving coffee culture can be fickle and Caribou, which was founded in 1990, may have expanded too fast. In contrast, the upscale Peet's Coffee that will be replacing many Caribou locations has taken its time with expansion giving it a more exclusive allure.

Peet's was founded by Alfred Peet who was born in Holland and moved to the U.S. after WWII where he was shocked by "what America called coffee."

In 1966, Peet opened a small coffee store on the corner of Walnut and Vine Streets in Berkeley, California. The coffee was made in small batches with fresh beans of a superior quality, that produced a rich and complex dark roast mix.  By 1969, Peet's Coffee & Tea had become a gathering place for Peetniks, and artisan food crafters.  Since then, Peet's has carefully added nearly two hundred more stores mostly in California and only five other states--Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington.

Currently there are only two Peet's Coffee Shops in the Chicago area:

Sheffield Peet’s
1000 W. North Avenue
Chicago, IL, 60622
(312) 475-9782

Evanston Peet’s
1622 Chicago Avenue
Evanston, IL, 60201
(847) 864-8413

If you want to get a preview of what's coming, checkout one of the two stores above. It remains to be seen how Peet's will fare in the Chicago market against Starbucks and our other top notch local shops from Julius Meinl Café to The Wormhole, but I'm betting they'll hang in. I do hope that Peet's adds Caribou's hot chocolate to their coffee and tea menu. Caribou's Hot Chocolate, which made Show Me Chicago's Top Ten Hot Chocolate Spots is a definite keeper.

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    Arts and Entertainment Reporter for media since 1997.

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