starbucks closing toronto

Here's what Toronto coffee shop owners think about all the Starbucks closing down

There are always the vocal small business diehards in Toronto that pipe up whenever a beloved neighbourhood Starbucks closes, but the permanent closure of over 25 stores in the city has also caused a wave of reactions from independent cafe owners.

"We have been following the news on the Starbucks locations closing down, but we have been focusing on us and our customers now more than ever. I believe we have an opportunity and a duty at this time," Ramzi Yanis of Hale Coffee told blogTO.

"What we are focusing on and everyone in the specialty coffee industry should put more energy into, is the delivery of the standards we promise. Now is the time where we have to hold ourselves accountable for the quality of the coffee we're serving, the customer service, the cleanliness and overall experience we provide."

Hale is an independent cafe and roastery in the Junction Triangle, tucked away in an industrial loft space that's a far cry from highly visible Starbucks locations at major intersections. But Ramzi isn't measuring his products against those of the chain.

starbucks closing toronto

A barista crafting a classic coffee drink at Toronto cafe and roaster Hale. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

"As a Starbucks closes down in a neighbourhood, the customers still need to get caffeinated. The opportunity comes when that customer makes the decision to go to 'other' local cafe," says Yanis.

"If that customer receives anything less than a great experience, it will look bad on all of us local, specialty, community, whatever you wish to call it cafes. It's our duty to prove that supporting local is worth it, regardless of Starbucks closing or not."

Retail Operations Manager for independent Toronto coffee chain Pilot Emily Corbeil echoes that, arguing that local cafes can offer more to the community than a Starbucks.

"Toronto is an up-and-coming city in the global specialty coffee scene, and that's largely because of the independent cafe operators that bring so much character to our communities," Corbeil told blogTO.

"These cafes are more accountable to their neighbourhoods, they more often donate and work with Toronto-based charities and they directly support the local economy. They are a big part of what makes us distinctly Toronto​."

starbucks closing toronto

Pilot's locally famous canned cold brew. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

Milkyas Tefera, owner of Mofer Coffee, agrees that his cafe brings something special to the Toronto coffee landscape that a Starbucks can't provide.

"When you support local businesses like ours, whether it be online or in-store, you will experience more than just coffee. For example, you can come into our store, have your coffee roasted from green beans and walk out with the freshest cup of coffee. Freshness and how you prepare coffee is a vital component of Ethiopian coffee culture," Tefera told blogTO.

"We have all been impacted, trying to offer more online options, and keeping our doors open while following guidelines to ensure the safety of our staff and customers. We have had to adapt, but we can't let down our staff or cut our community ties. We will do everything to keep our doors open."

starbucks closing toronto

Pouring up coffee that's been freshly roasted on site at Ethiopian cafe Mofer Coffee. Photo by Jesse Milns.

Corbeil agrees that all cafes big or small are more or less in the same boat on some level, and says what's most difficult is hearing about Toronto baristas losing their jobs. She only hopes that new jobs can be created for them at new local businesses.

"It's always troubling to hear that Torontonians and baristas are losing their jobs. We've been particularly saddened to see so many local businesses shut their doors for good, ones that greatly contributed to Toronto's identity," says Corbeil.

"We just hope that with these major retail closures comes an opportunity for Toronto-owned businesses in high foot traffic areas."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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