Hollywood grounds have bitter taste for Peet's
Compiled by Jim Gardner. Contributor: Mark Calvey.
Francisco Business Times
November 12, 2004
Peet's Coffee & Tea has carefully brewed an image
as the anti-Starbucks of coffee chains, placing almost
as much emphasis on its caring, sharing community-mindedness
as its 32 different coffees.
So it's finding it uncomfortable -- not to mention unfair
-- being roasted by devotees of a Los Angeles burger
stand as a sort of poster chain for corporate steamrolling.
Peet's recently agreed to lease space for a new store
on West Hollywood's busy Santa Monica Boulevard. Unbeknownst
to Peet's, however, part of the site already had an
occupant: the venerable Irv's Burgers, which the landowner
planned to raze to make way for the coffeehouse.
The 54-year-old corner burger stand has an oh-so-L.A.
history. Jim Morrison of the Doors and Janis Joplin
apparently dined there, and the stand is reportedly
featured in artwork for a Linda Ronstadt album. It also
has a fanatically loyal clientele: Twenty or so joined
together as the "Burger Brigade" to try to
fend off the perceived interloper.
Peet's was blissfully unaware that a controversy was
percolating -- until letters and emails of protest started
rolling in to its Emeryville HQ. At that point, thought
Peet's business development chief Peter Mehrberg, "maybe
I should bring the landlord and the community together
so we can save Irv's Burgers."
After all, Peet's prides itself on its history of cooperating
with community groups -- even in notoriously tetchy
cities like Berkeley and West Hollywood.
However, two meetings among interested parties have
failed to produce a solution. A third is planned, but
Mehrberg notes that as a prospective tenant, Peet's
is more of an observer than a participant. "I can
only play a limited part," he said. "Remember,
we don't control this property."
Still, Mehrberg stresses, he sees the Burger Brigade's
point: "What these people are doing is exactly
what we'd expect in the communities we support. They
are trying to stand up for a local business."