The Washington Post reports that while Starbucks is closing stores left and right, smaller local coffee shops are thriving. The report includes interviews with coffee-shop owners around the D.C. area about how they've done it.
Behind the counter, the Java Shack's baristas make the espresso themselves, no matter how many salesmen come through trying to sell Roberts an automatic machine that would steam the milk all on its own. He has said no every time. The person making the drink talks to the customer who ordered it. The scene is what Schultz originally intended with Starbucks, but even he now admits that atmosphere has drifted away as the company has grown.
This touches on some of the same themes that I wrote about a few months back when I profiled Phoenix Coffee, a local chain in Cleveland, as a business that is able to survive in a recession. The key to success for both Java Shack and Phoenix is a focus on skilled employees, as well as customer interaction.