Peet's Coffee opening in SF State library raises questions about corporations on campus

Peets SFSU

Donny Vallejo tests the steam wand at the new Peet's Coffee & Tea during their soft opening April 14. Peet's is now open in the newly opened library. Photo by Juliana Severe.

If coffee lovers don’t think they have enough locations on campus to get their caffeine fix, now there is one more to add to the list. Peet’s Coffee & Tea opened up April 14 on the first floor of the J. Paul Leonard Library.

SF State is known as a location for liberal activism, so the addition of another chain on campus has made some students question why more independent stores have not opened up.

“I really like Peet’s, but I try not to buy food at chain stores because I am personally against large corporations,” said Tricia Brooks, a theatre arts major. “The problem is that many people choose the chain stores over ones they are not familiar with.”

Allam Elqadah, who owns Café Rosso, SFSU Station Café, HSS Café, Sushigo, the Village Market and Taza, is also in a franchise-ownership agreement with the new Peet’s Coffee in the library. Even though he has experience running multiple businesses, Elqadah admits that doing business with a corporation is a very different experience.

“There’s a lot more pressure having a Peet’s store than an independent store,” said Elqadah. “We lose some of our independence because we’re inspected by a corporate office and are a part of a bigger team.”

Peet’s Coffee & Tea is the second business chain to open on campus. Subway opened its doors in October 2004 in The Village at Centennial Square.

Follet Corporation and Barnes & Noble have also submitted proposals to take over management at the SFSU Bookstore, which would shift the store from a nonprofit to a corporation. If either corporation manages the Bookstore, it would be the second chain to open on campus in less than a year.

“I don’t know why [SF State] hasn’t opened more small businesses on campus,” said Josh Luces, a chemistry major. “We should be supporting the local community.”

Although some students refuse to buy their coffee from a non-independent store, Peet’s employees on campus believe that the store’s positive reputation and convenient location will make it a popular place.

“We had hundreds of people coming up to us during training asking when it will open,” said Anthony Noday, a barista at Peet’s Coffee. “I think having a place to get coffee in the library will help all those stressed out students who are studying for their classes.”

Elqadah decided to open a Peet’s rather than another independent store on campus after he learned about how they operate their businesses.

“I figured it was time for me to learn from a top-notch place,” Elqadah said. “It’s been a challenge because you always want to remain independent and dedicated to what you know. Peet’s is really committed to the freshness and quality of the coffee. The more I learned, the more I realized that I would make a good team with the corporate office.”

Those who prefer to buy their coffee from the independent vendors on campus may be surprised to learn that they have already bought some of Peet’s products without even knowing.

Café Rosso, for example, uses some of Peet’s ingredients in their coffee. However, Elqadah stresses that the opening of Peet’s Coffee does not mean that his other businesses on campus will begin using more of their products.

“The coffee at Peet’s and the coffee at Café Rosso really have unique and distinctive flavors,” he said. “I don’t want to disappoint people at Café Rosso by adding more Peet’s products when there’s already a Peet’s on campus.”

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  • The problem with independent businesses on campus is that they’ve proven either to be mediocre or fully disastrous–Jessie’s Hot House, for example. The Village Market is a bit of a nightmare, too. The owner badly mistreats his student workers, and has a stranglehold on campus business, due in no small part to corruption within the section of the administration that deals with him.

    Chains aren’t inherently bad. More oversight is good, and being part of a larger organization can keep costs down, and thus prices.

    Plus, don’t forget: Peet’s started in Berkeley.