Cup runneth over: How many coffee shops in Longview is too many? | Local

Cup runneth over: How many coffee shops in Longview is too many? | Local

A question is brewing in Longview: Just how many coffee shops does one city need? How many coffee shops can a city support?

April Thompson, who opened One Sheep Coffee & Tea with her husband, Ron, this year in Longview, said she hasn’t seen any statistics about how many coffee shops a city can support.

“But I’m sure we’re maxed out,” she said.

While the specific answer to “just how many coffee shops does one city need” doesn’t seem to exist in a plethora of statistics about coffee’s hold on America, the statistics that do exist could show why Longview is seeing more and more such businesses.

The National Coffee Association reported earlier this year that coffee consumption hit a two-decade high, with 66% of Americans drinking coffee each day. That’s up 14% since January 2021. Americans also are drinking more of their coffee away from home — up 8% since January 2021.

The News-Journal’s count puts the number of coffee shops in Longview, freestanding or inside of other businesses, at 13. More are expected to open this year and raise that number to 17. Census estimates put the city’s population at 81,638, which means Longview will have one coffee shop for every 4,802 people this year.

“That is one thing we do not lack in is coffee,” Thompson said.

Still, Longview’s proliferation of coffee shops is nowhere near the numbers in the “best” American city for coffee drinkers, as identified in a 2020 article at Berkeley, California, has 46.9 coffee shops per 100,000 people.

Some of the coffee shops in Longview have been more welcome than others. South Longview leaders and residents have celebrated news that construction is starting on a new Starbucks on Estes Parkway at Interstate 20. 

On the west side of town, though, some people were outraged at Starbucks’ decision to locate a store that will open this summer on Gilmer Road — just a block or so away from Longview’s beloved original specialty coffee shop, Coffee Mill. They questioned why city government allowed the store to locate there. (Answer: the land chosen for the store was zoned appropriately for the coffee shop. It only needed a specific use permit for the drive-thru.)

A couple of key people were not outraged, though: the Coffee Mill owners themselves. 

Coffee Mill — which has almost always been a drive-thru only coffee shop — opened in 1994. The current owners, Brandee and Terry Brown, bought it six years ago.

“Coffee Mill was here 12 years before Starbucks was a thought (in Longview),” Brandee Brown said.

“I have been a personal customer of Coffee Mill since they opened the door in 1994,” and she loves coffee, she said.

But she also has a deep love for West Longview. She wants to see that corner of the city thrive, noting how much of Longview’s growth is taking place on U.S. 259 and other northern portions of the city. 

“Our first love is West Longview, and (the new Starbucks) cleans up a corner. It’s a beautiful building,” she said, noting that the new HTeaO across the street from the new Starbucks also helped improve the area. A dilapidated fried chicken restaurant was torn down to make room for the tea shop.

The store has loyal customers, she said. Her husband makes all of Coffee Mill’s syrups from scratch, with no preservatives and no chemicals, something that isn’t found at chain coffee shops. The couple also supports the community, most recently helping a Spring Hill student collect money for a fellow, autistic student who likes to paint, but whose family didn’t have money to purchase supplies for him.

“We’re not trying to get rich,” Brandee BRown said. “We’re trying to love our community, serve a good product, make people laugh and love our community, and we really, really, deep down want to keep that corner (of Longview) alive.”

“We believe there’s room for everybody,” she said, explaining that Coffee Mill can only serve so many people in a day anyway.

She thinks the millions of dollars corporate-owned chains have spent on marketing helped drive the coffee shop trend, along with social media.

“We love our community. We trust them to love us,” Brandee Brown said.

On Friday, her husband, Terry, was standing outside Coffee Mill, near the drive-thru, greeting customers he recognized.

“To me, we need coffee on the southside,” he said, noting the people who drive into Longview each day from the Lakeport area.

He added there is room for coffee shops with different purposes. Coffee shops with indoor seating offer places for people to get together with other people to visit. As a drive-thru only shop, Coffee Mill isn’t that kind of destination, he said, but its busiest time is between 6 and 9 a.m. each day as people heading into work stop for their drinks.

“I’m excited,” he said of the Starbucks opening nearby. “I think we’re going to be more busy.”

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