By Mark Fischenich
---- — MANKATO — Five years to the month after the Starbucks corporation decided to shut down its Madison Avenue coffee shop, part of a retrenchment that shuttered hundreds of stores nationwide, a new Starbucks is planned directly across Madison Avenue.
The Starbucks and a new mattress retailer will occupy two new buildings to be constructed on vacant land between Madison Avenue and the Crossroads Center strip mall, which will get a face-lift as part of the project by Tailwind Group. Pieces of the project have been revealed in documents submitted to the city of Mankato over the past two months, but the identity of the two new businesses was withheld until this week's Planning Commission meeting.
Starbucks' first attempt to build and operate stand-alone coffee shops in Mankato was strikingly short-lived. The Madison Avenue Starbucks was open less than two years and a second on Warren Street adjacent to the Minnesota State University campus operated only a few months before it was leaked in July of 2008 that they were two of 600 stores nationwide that would be shut down.
The reduction in stores — nearly 10 percent of Starbucks total in the United States — was caused by the deepening recession and high gas prices that had prompted consumers to cut back on their purchases of pricey coffee drinks, according to analysts. Media reports estimated that 12,000 employees were laid off by the store closings nationwide, which became official the next year.
Five years later, at least one of the Mankato stores is being resurrected as part of a two-part development by the Tailwind Group at the Crossroads Center (home to the Mongolian Grill, Mega Coin Laundry and Plato's Closet, among others).
The project involves moving the service road that serves the Red Lobster restaurant from the front of the lot to the north, placing it midway between the existing strip mall and the two new buildings to be constructed close to Madison Avenue. The Starbucks building, complete with drive-through service, will be on the Sioux Road side of the lot and a Mattress Firm will be on the side closest to Red Lobster, according to documents submitted to the Planning Commission.
Tailwind also received Planning Commission approval for a $500,000 face-lift to the aging Crossroads strip mall. Along with giving Crossroads a new look and Mankato a new Starbucks, the project will bring an end to the city-owned marquee sign advertising civic center events. The city council approved putting the sign in front of Crossroads in 1994, and Tailwind will be responsible for reimbursing the city for the depreciated cost of the electronic billboard.
The 2009 closure of the two Mankato Starbucks didn't leave fans of the chain completely stranded. Starbucks coffee counters continued in the Barnes and Noble and Hilltop Hy-Vee stores, although neither has a drive-through and neither offer the full Starbucks food menu.