Slate has a piece on how the expansion of Starbucks can actually benefit mom and pop coffee shops -- by whetting more consumers' tastes for overpriced beverages and pleasant semi-public hanging out spaces. In Omaha, for example, sales increased by 25 percent at independent coffee shops when Starbucks began to open branches in the city.
All of this piqued my interest today, since I spent the afternoon working at a lovely D.C. place I'd never been before, Big Bear Coffee. Big Bear, like so many non-Starbucks shops, has the huge advantage of offering free wireless. Almost every single person was ordering drink after drink as they worked away on a laptop.
If Starbucks ever enters the world of Internet 2.0 and begins to offer free wireless (which seems inevitable), that's when I'll really worry about independent shops.
(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)