Starbucks is coming to Ocean City

OCEAN CITY – A quaint downtown stretch along Asbury Avenue that has mostly managed to avoid corporate homogeneity by favoring hometown mom-and-pops – the likes of Benetton and Domino’s Pizza left town long ago after relatively unpopular stints – will be graced by the resort’s first Starbucks come fall.

Starbucks will, in fact, occupy Domino’s old digs at 11th and Asbury just as soon as designers, contractors, and the franchisees can create a “beach-beautiful” theme in the old pizza joint. Installing snazzy seating for up to 70 people, including a gas fireplace and special lighting features, the space could become a favorite hangout for locals and visitors alike, said Anne Betz, of Betz & Associates of Phoenixville, Chester County, which will operate the location with partner Pierce Keating of the Daniel J. Keating Co. of Narberth, Montgomery County.

The partnership operates Starbucks in nearby Margate and Atlantic City.

“We’re hoping the new location will become a kind of hub in Ocean City, so we want to do it right,” said Betz, explaining why the partnership, which includes her husband, John , isn’t rushing to be open in time for the upcoming summer season, preferring instead to peg the debut for sometime in late August or early September.

The location will be open year-around and feature Starbucks’ entire menu, including salads, sandwiches, panini and pastries, as well as its usual caffeine-fueled beverages.

Critics say they are concerned that the location of the store ¬-- associated with the largest coffeehouse company in the world, with some 21,000 locations worldwide – could harm local businesses.

But Betz contends Starbucks actually hopes to help local shops by staying open year-around and increasing traffic to the five-block Asbury Avenue downtown corridor.