ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Starbucks, the nation's largest specialty coffee chain, is edging out locally roasted coffee at some Carrs stores.
Seattle-based Starbucks recently replaced the Cafe del Mundo and Kaladi Bros. brands at Carrs Safeway espresso bars in Muldoon and Eagle River. Glenn Peterson, district manager, said eventually four Carrs Safeway locations in Anchorage and one in Juneau will serve Starbucks as the grocery chain tests customer preference.
''We'll let the customers take a look at it,'' Peterson said.
Carrs Safeway spokeswoman Cheri Myers described the switch to Starbucks as a trial, with customers having the final say. So far, everything indicates that Starbucks will be a hit, she said.
''Consumers have been anxious for Starbucks,'' Myers said from Bellevue, Wash.
The trend is worrisome to Perry Merkel, owner of Cafe del Mundo and Tim Gravel, owner of Kaladi Bros., who feel they're being shoved aside to make room for the big kid on the block.
''When Starbucks goes into a location, they're not about to share counter space with Cafe del Mundo or Kaladi,'' Gravel said.
Starbucks is available at the Barnes & Noble store on Benson Boulevard and at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, and will be served at a kiosk in the new Fred Meyer store in South Anchorage, slated to open this month.
The local roasters said Carrs Safeway plans to continue to stock their beans in the coffee aisle. And Peterson said he's working with Merkel to have Cafe del Mundo served at the Northway Mall store after the snack bar gets remodeled.
Merkel and Gravel said they've been hearing rumors for more than a year of an alliance between Starbucks and Carrs Safeway. About six months ago, local Carrs Safeway managers clued them in that the company was planning some changes to the espresso bars and that in all likelihood Starbucks would be displacing them.
When he tried to get some official statement from Carrs Safeway about its plans for the espresso bars, Gravel said, he was stonewalled.
''Carrs didn't talk to us at all. We only had hearsay,'' he said.
Gravel put his frustration in writing, firing off a letter to Carrs Safeway in early January saying he was pulling his espresso makers out of the stores as of Jan. 15.
Merkel got his first clue that something was brewing when a Carrs Safeway employee dropped off a company newsletter about a year ago that talked about Starbucks and Carrs Safeway working together. Merkel brought it to the attention of Peterson, who told him he didn't think the alliance would affect Alaska.
But a few months later Merkel got a phone call from Peterson informing him that in all likelihood, Starbucks would served in at least some Carrs Safeway cafes.
''He said as a courtesy he wanted to let me know and that it was something beyond his local control and that they wanted systemwide to work with Starbucks,'' said Merkel, who debuted Cafe del Mundo in Anchorage 20 years ago.
Starbucks referred questions about its Alaska expansion to a public relations' firm, which in turn referred questions to Safeway.
The Anchorage roasters said they hope Alaskans will demand a locally made product.
''I hope that the local Alaska market lets them know that they want to support local businesses, from produce to seafood, and yes, coffee,'' Merkel said.
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