New Main Street Starbucks will open Friday

Dylan Reynolds

When the new Starbucks at 1005 E. Main St. opens Friday morning, it will become the fourth Starbucks location in Kent, but it will have one feature none of the other stores have: a drive thru.

Store manager John Richardson said the coffee chain had been looking to add a drive thru location in Kent for years.

“We were just trying to find that perfect location that is accessible to the campus, accessible to the community,” Richardson said. “This is what blossomed out of that.”

The new location boasts more advantages over the other Kent stores, including seating for nearly 70 customers and a tap for Nitro Cold Brew Coffee — a cold, creamy coffee infused with nitrogen.

Inside the store, customers will find a variety of seating options, including tall tables, short tables and individual cushioned furniture. Modern art hangs on the walls beneath a tall ceiling, and coffee merchandise sits on shelves in the back. In other words, it looks like a Starbucks.

The store will employ 22 people, about half with experience at other Starbucks locations and half who are new to the job. They will be open 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The Main Street store is the third new Starbucks to open in Kent in the past year. The Kent State Library Starbucks opened in November 2017 and the Starbucks near the Business Administration Building opened this April. Kent’s fourth location, also on Main Street, has been open for many years.

Richardson, who formerly was a manager at the old Main Street Starbucks, said the new store wasn’t built as a replacement for that beloved building down the street. Kent State was approved to purchase the property at 430-436 E. Main St., including Starbucks, Campus Book & Supply, in January 2017. The university’s plans for the building remain unclear, but the coffee shop remains open for now.

“It’s probably not going to be there forever, but that isn’t really our decision,” he said. “Initially, when (the university) first bought the building, they told me that it would probably be two or three years before they decided what they are going to do with that block in and of itself.”

Richardson said the two locations can coexist despite their closeness to each other. He said the new store was originally supposed to open last fall, but the project was delayed because of opposition from some in the community. Much of that opposition was based on fears that the plaza would create excessive traffic and noise in the surrounding residential area, as well as concerns over tree removal.

In 2017, the Kent Planning Commission rejected developer Kent Investors LLC’s plans for the plaza. That rejection was denied by Judge Becky Doherty of the Portage County Common Pleas Court, who said the Planning Commission could not reject plans that comply with city zoning code. Construction began in March.

To address community concerns, the developers took efforts to make the plaza blend into the neighborhood as well as possible.

“The lighting around the establishment has been minimized, so not too intrusive at night,” Richardson said. “The overall design of the building went through a whole different process than it was originally intended, to make it look a little bit more pleasant for the community that it’s in.”

Richardson acknowledged that the amount of traffic coming in and out of the store could require a “learning curve” for customers and employees, but he doesn’t foresee any serious issues. He hopes the community embraces the efforts Starbucks took to appeal to the neighborhood.

“This store is meant to be heavily involved within the community,” he said. “This is where you go to have fun, hang out, have a conversation, relax.”

The plaza also contains two empty retail spaces, and Richardson said no businesses have signed leases to fill those spaces yet.