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Lack of coffee shops evident in the Central Hillside

By VENESSA OSTERGAARD
DCN Correspondent

At ten to the hour, almost every hour, a line drifts out of the coffee shop on UMD’s campus. The need for a caffeine buzz has hit the majority of the student population.

The vision of a packed coffee house with the inhabitants of UMD shoulder-to-shoulder, waiting for tables with books and a computer is becoming less of an assumption and more of a reality everywhere we turn.

Coffee shops around the world are being used as an escape from an office or library by people of all ages. Why is the environment of a coffee shop so soothing? What is it that temps us to bring our lives into this public place to try and relax?

A 2008 story written in London said that London coffee shops have become crowded with businessmen who sit for hours using wireless Internet.

This trend is hitting all ages and all demographics.

Dateline New York wrote a story examining coffee and sandwich shops. They reported that in recent years, growth in the number of outlets for the leading operators of branded coffee shops has been around 15 percent.

This is directly correlated with the youth epidemic of the trendy coffee house. We are turning into a nation of coffee houses and caffeine dependent citizens. This epidemic has not embraced a central neighborhood in Duluth, however. The Central Hillside remains seemingly untouched.

With the growth of coffee shops and the size of Duluth, you’d expect to see one on the corner of nearly every neighborhood. This is not the case in the Central Hillside. The closest thing to a coffee shop is the infamous Uncle Louis Cafe on Fourth Street.

Starbucks calls itself "a gathering place for the entire community." When a community does not have a gathering place such as Starbucks or Caribou, they find alternatives for what they want.

“The cliental isn’t really here for a coffee shop in the Central Hillside,? said Mike, a server at Uncle Louis Café.

Instead of going to a trendy coffee shop, the Hillside residents stop at Uncle Louis for a hot cup of joe and relaxation.

Mike says, “it could be good (referring to a coffee shop) if you find the right spot because there is no place to just sit and relax, especially at night because we close at 3.? Most students are waiting until the night hours to study, leaving them with the desire for a late night caffeine fix. And if they live in the Central Hillside, it’s hard to find.

The National Coffee Association says young people are the fastest growing coffee-drinking niche. In 2002, about 24 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds drank coffee. In 2007, it jumped to 37 percent.

The Associated Press reported on a small town in Iowa with 2,600 people. They may not have a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Doughnuts, but their high school students still have a chance to get their caffeine buzz in the halls of their school.

"It's a very popular thing. Most of us hang out on the couches in the senior lounge and chat while we drink lattes," says 18-year-old Diana Rubio.

Parents of these teens link today’s trendy coffee shop to the soda shops they went to generations ago. All your friends would meet up for a safe and fun hangout, away from their parents.

Daniel Hartman is involved in the Central Hillside community and is the Program Director at the Veteran’s Memorial Hall. Hartman says with all the student life in Duluth and a majority of the students living in the Hillside, that our businesses need to start taking advantage of it.

“There are plans to turn a portion of Fourth Street into somewhat of a progress street,? Says Hartman. “You know, after Bob Dylan.?

This could include the missing coffee house that we are so used to seeing.

He thinks a coffee shop would take advantage of the younger demographics the colleges bring to Duluth. Even though $5 for a cup of coffee may not fit with the identity of the Central Hillside now, you don’t know how it could change the landscape of the community.