Why does Leith not have a Starbucks?

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The so-called Starbucks Effect has yet to hit Leith - why is that?

Our business is based in Constitution Street near to the Shore area of Leith and so we are spoilt with a choice of excellent independent cafes.

Have you, like me, ever wondered why Leith does not have a Starbucks, a Costa, a Cafe Nero or even a Pret A Manger? And why, given that here in Leith we have some of the best restaurants in Edinburgh, do we not have any of the chain restaurants?

Coffee Philistine

Now, I have to admit at the start that to me, coffee is coffee. I know what I like and stick with the same thing all the time; a decaf cafe latte. The only variable is that - if I remember in time - I ask for skimmed milk. But I know many people for whom the quality of coffee is everything. In fact, I was speaking with Chris and Viv (fabulous clients of ours whom have recently sold and purchased), the other week about this very thing and in their view the best coffee in the city is served at the Print Works on Constitution Street and to them it is nothing to travel a few miles from where they live to enjoy a cup of coffee there.

Liking the image of coffee culture

I do however, like many of us, like the lifestyle image that the coffee culture has given us. 

The first image, is the busy commuter, striding confidently to the office, balancing, briefcase coffee and phone. 

Second image, small group of smartly dressed millenials on a Sunday morning sharing coffee, croissants (although a muffin would be my choice) joined in excited conversation.

But the image that strikes the strongest cord for me is using the cafe as a meeting place.

A good cafe culture in an area has a positive effect on property prices

You were perhaps wondering why an estate agent was talking about coffee. Are you familiar with the so-called term, "The Starbucks Effect"?

It was suggested a couple of years ago that a Starbucks opening in an area has the effect of boosting property prices in that area (up to a 96% increase in some areas of America!). And that, to me, sounds perfectly sensible. It is part and parcel of the gentrification of an area. People who would have previously dismissed a neighbourhood as being too rough or not popular begin to think and feel differently when they see a Starbucks on the High Street.

But this nothing new

Apologies now for a bit of a ramble! But gentrification is nothing new. I happened upon Stewart Brand some years ago via Brian ENO and read is book How Buildings Learn. In the book he explains how run down low-rent areas in cities like New York attracted artists. The artists made the area more aspirational, people moved into the area, it became gentrified and as a consequence the area improved and property price rise.

It is difficult to get hold of a copy of How Buildings Learn, but you can get a copy from the Edinburgh Library and, since the book was serialised by the BBC you can now see full episodes on YouTube.

Looking for a Coffee Shop in Leith?

I can happily recommend Mimi's Bakehouse at the Shore, as well as both Printworks and Rock Salt on Constituion Street. And with so many great coffee shops to choose from, why would Leith need a Starbucks anyway?

Where will be the next area ripe for gentrification?

With Leith having changed hugely in the past 10 years it will be interesting to see which area will soon follow suit. Easter Road in particular has some great potential, with an already competitive property market and being a popular area with commuters and millenials, coffee shops similar to those who are already doing a booming trade in Leith would likely have similar success with a venture on Easter Road.


At Cameron Stephen & Co. Solicitors and Estate Agents Edinburgh we have helped hundreds of people sell and buy their properties in and around Edinburgh. So if we can help you, please give us a call on 0131 555 1234.


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