The Man Behind the Starbucks Debate

The word on the street was that a man named Malcolm, who headed the West Chester Business Improvement District (BID), was in charge of allowing certain businesses to come to West Chester. Based on the huge amount of comments we received on Sarah Reese’s article about Starbucks coming to West Chester, I thought it would be a good idea to meet him and get his thoughts on the Starbucks issue.

I walked into his office at about half past 4 on a Tuesday afternoon – the end of his workday. He very graciously sat with me at his office’s large conference table.

I started the discussion joking that,”not everyone gets a conference table of this size in their office you know? And you even have a window! You must be a very important man.”

He politely laughed and likely wondered (as many people do when they first meet me) if I was kidding or if I was crazy. He soon learned that I was a mix of both as I asked him blunt questions about his job and how it affects the town. In a nutshell, here is what he shared with me:

1. The BID does not determine what businesses come into West Chester; potential businesses approach property owners.

2. The BID can only turn down a potential business if they do not comply with certain zoning ordinances.

3. It is illegal to refuse a particular type of establishment (eg, Starbucks) if the same class of establishment (eg, a coffee shop) is approved.

He informed me that the BID was established in 2001 to fund and implement programs that reflect the following three general goals:

  • Increase customer traffic and sales
  • Retain, expand and recruit viable businesses;
  • Advocate the interests of downtown to government agencies

Because corporate and pre-existing family-run businesses co-habitate, he is responsible for providing equal support to each business.

Although he helped to clear up many of my questions, he would like to help answer any questions from you the public or local businesses.

For more information on the BID, check out the website. For more information about Malcolm, click here.

The Final Dish:

Have questions for Malcolm? Leave a comment and open up the lines of communication.