Sunday, June 23, 2024

Central Square’s Starbucks coffee shop closes Nov. 13. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The Starbucks coffee shop in Central Square closes Nov. 13, with crime in the area identified by counter staff and a corporate spokesperson as a major factor in the decision.

The shop opened at 655 Massachusetts Ave. on Dec. 2, 1997, staying through previous ups and downs in the economy and trends in crime – but after 25 years the Seattle-based coffee chain said the location no longer made sense for it.

“We want to make sure the store is thriving and our partners feel supported.When necessary, we will make the decision to close a store,” a Starbucks spokesperson said Friday. “Really, our first priority is to make sure our partners are safe at work.”

Even with the closing, Central won’t lack for coffee. The location at the Prospect Street intersection is flanked by a 1369 Coffee House and Caffe Nero, both within two blocks, and Andala Coffee House remains open and busy two blocks down River Street while closing even later – at 11 p.m. to Starbucks’ 8 p.m.

While the Starbucks spokesperson couldn’t say when the decision was made to close the location, a worker at the location said they were told Thursday. Workers there will be given the chance to relocate to another location, the spokesperson said, noting that a store in Harvard Square is about to open in the new Abbot building after an 11-month absence.

Harvard Square once had three Starbucks and will soon have one, and the chain has been adapting to changes in customer habits by opening smaller stores that acknowledges individual traffic is down even as group ordering stays strong – in fact, at last month’s Investor Day event in Seattle, company executives said 2,000 more Starbucks would open nationwide by 2025, up from the current 6,536. But the closing in Central wasn’t financial, so far as the spokesperson knew. (Traffic figures aren’t broken out by store for media, and a worker at the 655 Massachusetts Ave. location declined to estimate.)

The decision to close was a surprise to Cambridge police.

“We just had a Coffee with a Cop event with them last week and we weren’t informed of this, nor of concerns regarding crime within or outside the business,” said Jeremy Warnick, director of communications and media relations for the department.

That crime is a problem in Central Square compared with the rest of the city is clear. Warnick pointed to figures and graphics in the September Bridgestat report showing violence- or property-based incidents highest there. “The trend observed during Covid of a high percentage of aggravated assaults occurring in Central Square and peripheral side streets has continued in 2022, with 67 of the 180 citywide reports occurring in this area” to date, according to the report. Forty-one of 67 street robberies recorded through Oct. 3 were in Central as well, and 47 out of 89 thefts, not to mention 88 of 332 bike thefts. Other crime heat maps show spikes in Central as well.

The Central Square Starbucks worker thought there were “many contributing factors” to the closing but mentioned crime specifically. “Obviously, it’s a great place to have a coffee shop,” the worker said. “But for the foreseeable future, we will no longer be here.”

The Starbucks spokesperson added that “societal safety issues affect all retailers.”

“That’s why we have protocols and resources in place, to make sure partners and customers are out of harm’s way,” the spokesperson said. “And like I said, sometimes we will make a decision to close the store.”