Starbucks confirms Cayman plans

Ian Dear at the opening of Starbucks in Jamaica in July this year.

Starbucks has confirmed plans to open its first store in the Cayman Islands by the end of the year in a move that could shake up the local cafe scene.

The arrival of the American coffee chain has already had an impact on the Cayman market, with Café del Sol confirming that it has not had its lease renewed at Camana Bay.

Brad Bargman, one of the owners of the store, said it would close the location at the end of October. He said he had been told by Camana Bay management that the space was being taken by Starbucks. A Dart Real Estate spokeswoman confirmed Café del Sol would be leaving the Camana Bay location. She said Dart had interest from potential tenants but would not comment on potential negotiations.

Mr. Bargman said Café del Sol, a founding tenant at Camana Bay, was disappointed to leave, but hopeful that it could compete with Starbucks from its other locations at Marquee Plaza, in downtown George Town, and at a new venue opening in Savannah.

Jamaican entrepreneurs Adam Stewart, the CEO of the Sandals hotel chain, and Ian Dear, who runs the Margaritaville restaurant franchise throughout the Caribbean, are behind the plan to bring Starbucks to the Caribbean. They have a franchise agreement through their company, Caribbean Coffee Baristas, and have already opened stores in Jamaica.

Mr. Dear told the Cayman Compass in an email, “Both Turks & Caicos and the Cayman Islands fall under our license agreement and we are on track to open our first Starbucks stores, in both islands, by the end of the year.”

Mr. Stewart told news site Loop Jamaica that the company had plans for three stores in the Cayman Islands.

Nicola Groves, marketing manager for Caribbean Coffee Baristas, said she was not able to confirm store locations at this point.

She said the company was committed to growing the Starbucks brand throughout the Caribbean and saw Cayman as an ideal location.

“With the majority of Caymanians familiar with the brand, we believe the response locally will be a strong one,” she said.

The imminent arrival of a global brand with the power and name recognition of Starbucks has sent a ripple of concern through the local business community.

But Paul Storey, who runs the Paperman’s Coffeehouse, which has several locations across the island, said the local coffee houses were good enough to compete with anyone.

“I think Starbucks does a great job,” he said. “We have got plenty of great coffee houses here already so they will need to do a great job. There are dozens of places that serve great coffee and great food. We are all competing for that food and drink market. People could choose to go anywhere, but they choose to come here. One advantage we have is we bake everything fresh on site every day.

“Of course, everyone is going to want to go to Starbucks because of the name. I’m sure they will do a good job, but so will we.”

Café del Sol’s Mr. Bargman said it was a blow to lose the Camana Bay location.

“Our lease is not being renewed and we have been told by management that Starbucks is coming in here,” he said. Mr. Bargman said Café del Sol, a local company co-owned by him and Leticia Scott, had been at that location, next to Books & Books for 11 years. He said they had been offered other spots within Camana Bay, but nowhere that was suitable.

He hopes customers will remain loyal and visit its stores elsewhere on the island, including a new café opening in Savannah in a new mall near the Countryside Shopping Centre.

“People love us, and the feedback we have been getting is that people are very disappointed to see us leave the Camana Bay location,” Mr. Bargman said. “We know people will go to Starbucks but we believe the local customers will keep coming to us because they appreciate the service and the quality we provide.”

He said the fast food market showed that quality local companies could still thrive in the face of competition from international chains.

“In Marquee Plaza, you have Wendy’s and Burger King right there, but when Burger Shack opened, they were very successful,” Mr. Bargman said.

Ms. Groves said more details would be released soon about Starbucks’ plans in Cayman. “We respect all our competitors, wherever we do business, and what they bring to this market. Anything that supports and helps elevate the specialty coffee market is good for everyone,” she said.

Dart Real Estate said in a statement that it was appreciative of the service Café Del Sol had provided over 10 years in Camana Bay.

The statement read: “It is important to maintain a thriving town with offerings representative of the ever-evolving needs of the nearly 2,000 people who live and work in Camana Bay.

The commitment to these members of the Camana Bay community, and the visitors who frequent the Town Centre, means assessment of services is often undertaken to ensure the best experience possible is being offered.

“Dart Real Estate continues to receive interest from potential tenants wishing to open a location in Camana Bay. As is common practice in commercial operations, Dart Real Estate does not comment on any potential negotiations.”