The Roasterie fights big business with new campaign

With Goodcents moving out and Starbucks moving in, the Roasterie launched ‘Keep Brookside Local’, an initiative aimed at fighting against commercialization in the area.


There is a mix of local and chain stores and restaurants in the Brookside shopping area Dec. 1. The “Keep Brookside Local” campaign began to bring new local businesses to Brookside and limit the number of chain businesses in the area. photo by Maggie Hart

by Lily Manning, Editor-in-Chief

It’s 2022. Danny O’Neill sits with his family around the dinner table. They are having a conversation about the Brookside shopping center, located just a few blocks from their home. What was once a unique, charming and locally owned cluster of shops has turned into a division of national and international chains, with a Starbucks sitting on the corner of 63rd and Brookside Plaza. O’Neill’s son asks him, “Dad, where were you? What did you do when big businesses came to Brookside?”

Back in present day, Danny O’Neill, “Bean Barron” and owner/founder of the Roasterie, is glad that he won’t have to tell his son he didn’t try to stop the commercialization of Brookside.

Early in October, rumors started to circulate that Goodcents Deli Fresh Subs, located at 63rd and Brookside Plaza, would not be renewing its lease in early 2018. Shortly after this, Starbucks filed a permit for the location, confirming suspicions of a move into the area, just across the street from the Roasterie. After speaking with the owners of other local Brookside shops, O’Neill started the “Keep Brookside Local” campaign. The initiative is focused on preserving the local appeal of the Brookside shopping district.

When the neighborhood started to protest, O’Neill had just returned from Austin, TX. He remembered the phrase ‘Keep Austin Weird’ and thought something along those lines would work for the Brookside campaign.

“I thought, ‘What if we do a positive spin off that?’” O’Neill said. “We don’t want to be anti-anything, but we want to be for keeping the local charm of Brookside.”

Freshman Josie Fox does not live in Brookside, but visits the shops often with her family. Josie does not really see a Starbucks having a large impact on business in the area or on the Roasterie.

“I think the Roasterie does pretty good business already down there,” Fox said. “I think that it might add another option for people, but I’m not sure if it will directly affect a business like that [in Brookside].”

O’Neill has no ill will for Starbucks, but feels the international chain would not purposefully fill the space.

“If there was nobody doing coffee, if we were doing a really nasty job on coffee, if nobody could get a seat, if nobody could get a cup of coffee, if we couldn’t recruit a local company to do coffee, then bring them in,” O’Neill said. “But the best use of space for the neighborhood is not a Starbucks.”

Senior Maeve Madden has grown up in Brookside, and holds fond memories of the Brookside shops being the first place she could go with friends and without her parents. Madden visits the area often, and believes it’s important to shop locally.

“I think it creates a sense of community when you’re supporting your neighbors who own those shops,” Madden said. “They’ve always been very local and friendly places to me. I’ve been sad to see a lot of the shops struggle recently.”

Some of the struggle the shops face is due to what O’Neill calls “selling out”, the welcoming of a big company into a space simply because they can pay more than a local company is able to. With more money and resources, national and international companies are able to come in and drive rent to a price locals cannot afford. Some landlords accept the higher offer, but O’Neill, who is a landlord at other locations, feels that this is not right.

“Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something,” O’Neill said.

Madden and O’Neill both echo sentiments about the commercialization of the Country Club Plaza. While the shopping area was once dominated by local businesses, now commercial businesses take up most of the district.

“There used to be a day where you could go through [the Plaza] and there would be one after another, small local, unique shops,” O’Neill said. “There was a reason to go there. Now you go there and there is all the same stores that are in Cleveland and Dallas and Overland Park and anywhere else.”

The campaign is a fight against this, and a push to keep Brookside the local place that O’Neill first fell in love with. When he saw a vacant building in Brookside and heard that a national chain might be moving into the space, his love for the Brookside area is what first drove the Roasterie into the retail market.

“Honestly, we had no intention of ever going into retail,” O’Neill said. “We thought since it’s Brookside, we’ll take it. We would never have tried to get it if it was in another part of the city.”

To O’Neill, the threat isn’t Starbucks taking away business from the Roasterie. The threat is big companies taking away from the locality of the Brookside shops.

“We are living here for a reason, by choice,” O’Neill said. “Because we do care about the local and the charm and the uniqueness, and that’s important to us.”