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Get the "Buck" Out!

Local Matters: Middlebury residents look to thwart Starbuck, Staples

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MIDDLEBURY - Some Middlebury-area residents are mobilizing to stop Starbucks and Staples from coming to their community.

Opponents plan to raise a variety of objections to both proposed projects at an October 22 meeting of the town's Development Review Board. They say Starbucks and Staples, each eyeing sites in a shopping center on Route 7, would worsen sprawl, damage locally owned downtown businesses and pocket profits that could otherwise be cycled through the area's economy.

"Smaller businesses do tend to give back more to their communities than national chains," says John Beattie, a Salisbury resident. He also warns that the arrival of a Starbucks and Staples will make it harder for Middlebury to retain its "unique character," causing the town to "become more like Everywhere Else, USA."

It's the potential resemblance to Burlington's premier big-box suburb that worries Michele Fay, a literacy teacher and songwriter who lives in Ripton. "We don't want to end up looking like another Williston," Fay says.

Myron Hunt, Inc., a developer based in Buffalo, N.Y., has filed an application to build a 1700-square-foot Starbucks, which would include drive-through service, on the site of an abandoned car wash in The Centre shopping plaza about a mile south of the village. Under a separate proposal by the same developer, Staples would open a 15,000-square-foot office-supplies store adjacent to the Hannaford supermarket in The Centre.

Starbucks is viewed as a particular threat to Carol's Hungry Mind, a coffee house on the Middlebury Green opened in 2005 by two local entrepreneurs. And the discounts and convenient parking offered by Staples could lure customers who might otherwise have patronized Main Street Stationery, a longtime cornerstone of the downtown retail scene.

But not everyone opposes the chains, and consumer choice is the appeal chiefly cited by supporters. Those who favor local stores are free to continue shopping there, but should not impose their preferences on others, supporters say.

Angelo Lynn, publisher of the twice-weekly Addison Independent, took that position in a recent editorial. Local businesses do deserve to thrive, he wrote, adding, "In the meantime, give Starbucks its due and welcome the diversity of business into the town."

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