I’m on fire.
No not literally. I’ve just been on a roll with this blog lately. Not only have I visited at least 1 Starbucks every day in October, but this will be my second for the day. Half of the reason for this increase in blogging is due to my awareness of the year’s impending demise. The other half is simply an increase in dedication to the cause. As the year slips away and the amount of undiscovered Starbucks grows smaller and smaller, I’m feeling this heightened curiosity toward each untouched Starbucks. After visiting over 150 locations in New York, have I still not discovered the very best one? Or the very worst one? And maybe there’s a small neighborhood I’ve yet to traipse through that will draw me in the way so many of the others have. And it’s this curiosity that’s making it easier and easier to convince myself to make time to blog each day.
Specifically, this Starbucks on 96th & Lexington intrigued me because of its close proximity with the Starbucks I wrote about earlier today. Both are on the border of Harlem and the Upper East Side. However, the Starbucks on 96th & Madison is on the south side (Upper East Side), while this one is on the north side (Harlem). Specifically this one belongs to the neighborhood known as Spanish Harlem — or SpaHa. So I wanted to know if there was a detectible distinction between these two close Starbucks in two very different neighborhoods.
The short answer: a little.
The Madison Starbucks was small, crowded, and filled with a crowd of tourists and keep-to-yourself patrons. This Starbucks is large, still crowded, and filled with a much more social crowd. A father sits talking with his son. Three teenagers sit at the communal table and angst all over each other. And a couple just walked out after sharing what I’m assuming was a latte — I’m guessing Pumpkin Spice.
Other features of this Starbucks include plenty of seating, jazz music and an authentic exposed-brick wall. It’s crowded even late at night, and the crowd doesn’t seem to be waning at all. Also, the locals have clearly pegged this Starbucks as a convenient bathroom stop to and from the 6-train.
So in conclusion, although this Starbucks is just on the other side of 96th street, it does indeed have more Harlem characteristics than the Madison location of the Upper East Side.
The lines between most Manhattan neighborhoods often blur and lack a clear distinction. You can walk from Kips Bay to Murray Hill to the Upper East Side and not really tell when one neighborhood ends and another begins. Even the Internet has mixed views on the borders of some neighborhoods. Some argue Midtown stops at 34th street; others say it extends down to 14th. And some claim that Alphabet City no longer exists and refer to it as strictly the Lower East Side.
However, there is one neighborhood distinction that is almost night and day; below 96th street is the Upper East Side and above is Harlem. And the Starbucks on the corner of 96th and Madison is right on the border of these two very different neighborhoods.
As I walked north across 96th street, I was not expecting the neighborhood shift to be so perceptible. But literally, I knew I was in Harlem without needing to look it up on a map. And no, I’m not talking about differences in race, class, or any of that stereotypical bull. I knew because of the gentrification. Below 96th on Madison Avenue were nothing but independently owned specialty shops, spas, and convenient stores. Once north of 96th, the first three stores I saw were Dunkin Donuts, Subway and Verizon. Case closed.
The Starbucks is on the south corner, so it technically belongs to the Upper East Side. But it lacks the size and space of most UES locations, and brings in a more touristy crowd since it is so close to Central Park. The tourists come and go; however, it appears this is also a favored spot for locals to come and hang out for awhile. There’s lots of headsets and laptops taking up the limited seating this Starbucks has to offer… but who am I to judge?
As the month wraps up, I’m continuing my trend of Starbucks stuffed into place, and everyone’s who’s ever visited a Target store knows how convenient it is to see smell their favorite coffee brand the moment they walk in.
There is actually only one Target on the island of Manhattan, and although this retail superstore is not nearly as popular in the city, it still has a special place in my heart. Without Target, I would never have had the courage to move to NYC. I actually worked for the company as a manager (or Team Leader, in Target-speak) for five years, and they were willing to transfer me up to one of their Brooklyn locations when I got accepted to New York University. Throughout my undergrad, I built my leadership skills within the red wall of Target; I’ve made several great friends; I learned work-ethic and life lessons; and I would never have met my current boyfriend if I had never adorned the red & khaki.
Another thing I got from working at Target — obviously — was an addiction to Starbucks coffee. Although I never worked at this Target, located on 117th and Pleasant Avenue in East Harlem, just walking in here brings back so many memories of my days with the company. I never did work in any of the licensed Starbucks that are within Target stores, but I would frequent them enough to get to know all the barista team members.
The Starbucks inside this Target actually has a great deal of space to itself. There are plenty of small and large tables to sit at, and not surprisingly, at least half of them are occupied by guests with loaded shopping carts. Of course it’s brighter than most Starbucks (fluorescent lights and all), and due to frequent guest traffic, tends to get dirtier a little more quickly.
All in all, it’s not the Starbucks you want to meet a friend for coffee at or hold a study group, but it sure is convenient if you need to get some shopping done.