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For the week of August 18th, 1999 through August 24th, 1999

Enough already with the Starbucks signs

What’s in a name? For a company, everything. Its logo and image are linked to letters, symbols and colors.

Take Starbucks.

The coffee retailer’s image translates into fresh brews, sidewalk ambiance and, currently, a steaming brouhaha over its signs on Ketchum’s historic Lane Mercantile Building. Last May 10, the town’s planning and zoning staff approved the Starbucks logo--green signs with white letters--on the building’s south and west facing walls. The two-by 20-foot signs went up on June 16.

Both signs are legal under the city’s signage guidelines.

So what’s wrong?

Lisa Majdiak, Ketchum’s chief planner, said about 30 complaints rolled into city hall, both of the verbal and written variety, following the P&Z decision. "That’s more complaints than we’ve ever gotten on any sign," she said.

Thirty complaints? Doesn’t seem like much. But, then again, neither do the signs. Intrusive? In bad taste? Hardly.

In any case, public opinion must have been galvanized because Ketchum’s city hall watchdogs and Starbucks once again huddled Monday night over this weighty issue.

Question: How do you place the coffee retailer’s name on those lovable historic bricks without violating the town’s history and pride?

The solution, agreed upon by both sides: A smaller west-facing sign attached to the building’s awning that blends more into the Mercantile’s aging exterior color. A cedar plank is expected to display "Starbucks Coffee" in white letters.

Alas, there’ll be no south-facing sign, as is now the case high on the building, to greet visitors motoring up Main Street. Instead, a small green Starbucks sign, oval in shape and 24 inches in diameter, will be attached to the building’s southwest corner.

Starbucks representative Rachael Royce, ever the diplomat, suggested that anything smaller might be invisible.

Whatever the case, Majdiak told a writer the original signs—which she green-lighted—"didn’t fit in with the historic character of the building. I think it’s a very valid issue."

Seattle-based Starbucks, of course, will turn somersaults to satisfy locals.

"We want to be good corporate neighbors," said Don Volonte, Starbucks’ Boise-based district manager, whose degree in sociology undoubtedly helps him retain his sanity.

In a few weeks, barring more complications, the P&Z staff is expected to approve the new signs. No City Council vote is required, Majdiak said. Hopefully, the issue will be resolved once and for all. Then, we can all relax with a frothy latte and conduct a reality check.


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Copyright 1999 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.