“Coffee is what keeps me alive.”
So says Webb Crecink, an espresso lover who stops at the Starbucks in Clinton, Mississippi, every time he comes through after a sales trip on his way home to Louisiana. He emphasizes his point by grabbing another sip of his espresso with milk in the small, paper white cup with Starbuck’s green mermaid logo printed on the side.
The afternoon sunlight cuts through the umbrellas, hallows Crecink’s head, and lands on the pavement outside the Clinton Starbucks off I-20 right as a customer pushes through the glass door with a drink carton holding frappuccinos and ice coffee, and a cake pop for the child in tow.
Coffee fuels many people like Crecink in Clinton, Mississippi. With Cups and Starbucks at opposite ends off Spring Ridge road, the small town cultures a mini sociology project in the people who walk through the doors of the local coffee shops. The differences and varieties in age, dress, and drink desires create two unique atmospheres.
“I see all sorts of people,” says Joan Blanton, who comes a minimum of three times a week to Starbucks to study and research for her PhD. “There’s a preponderance of students. There’s a group of runners that are here every weekend in the mornings and then a group of local artists that meet most Saturdays. There’s the people who run the Vietnamese nail salon in town. They come before they go to work. And the Chinese students at MC love it. Oh and there are two women, they must be b.f.f.s because I see them every weekend.” She laughs and takes a sip of her caramel frappuccino, “Sometimes my drink is already made when I get here.”
Being next to an interstate, Starbucks has a unique blend of fast paced service with the drive-thru and in-and-out customers as well as the slower crowd that stays to study, read, and socialize.
“It’s fast paced,” says Michael Shadie a barista at Starbucks. “There’s what I like to call ‘the church rush’. We’ve had a couple come through the drive-thru who are in a huge rush and have a line of drinks and they kinda tell us that they’re running late to church. We do the best we can to get all the drinks out because we have to go in the exact order that they’re rung up or written out, so we don’t get drinks out of order which confuses all of us.”
Drive down the road and at the corner of West Main Street, what may resemble your grandmother’s house, is Cups coffee shop. At any time of the day, a room in Cups will hold any number of students, studying, reading, or meeting up with mentors or friends. Men sit outside smoking their pipes and discussing theology and women. Some Saturday mornings, a group of elderly ladies sit on the porch catching up on their families and recent news. They clap their hands when a student picks out “Amazing Grace” on his guitar. A family walks in with kids in strollers to pick up their favorite drink after an early morning start.
Giorgio Fareira has worked at Cups about four months and notes that he sees many of the same people every day and that most of them are friendly and caring.
“It’s mostly regulars,” says Fareira. “Even throughout the day, we have people just come back after classes or between whatever they’re doing. There are some people that are here probably more than I am.”
Most people get the drip coffee, says Fareira, because of the student discount. “As far as the other drinks, the Blondie is definitely the most popular.”
Currently, neither Starbucks nor Cups host events at their stores. However, Cups is working on hosting more social functions at their store this spring and summer. Fareira is working on an open mic night at Cups in April.
Only miles apart, the two coffee shops gather crowds unique to their coffee and location. While the crowds, pace, and orders may vary, both shops offer a place to sit, free Internet, and a warm or cold cup of joy to brighten your day.
“Here [at Starbucks] if you want to interact with people you can. If you’re studying, they’ll leave you alone,” says Blanton. “And for me there’s just enough music and noise to make it interesting but not distracting.”
“Cups is more than just a coffee shop,” says James Ritchie a MC student and Cups regular. “Cups is a haven.”