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Winter Hours (Hours may vary due to inclement weather)
Monday thru Friday 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday Closed.
Starboards Coffee Kiosk | 101 High Street | Portsmouth, Virginia 23704 | 757.478.0056
Starboards Coffee Kiosk 101 High Street Portsmouth, Virginia 23704
With the size of the building, we proved that size does not matter. People said you’re “just a kiosk”. Maybe so, but we managed to transform a shed into an attractive building that became a “destination” for many visitors, boaters and locals alike. Starboards truly became a place where everybody knew your name.
We survived many bumps in the road since 2004 – the closing of the Children’s Museum for a 19-month renovation, Starboards’ fire in 2008, our Coast Guard clientele being deployed for Katrina and Haiti, the economy and many more. But, these were all temporary problems. The biggest reason for our decision to close was the relocation of the Courthouse. We underestimated the impact this move would have on our business – a permanent change. It is amazing how little traffic goes by Water Street now. Ever wonder why Starbucks built a store on Effingham Street when they were in the midst of closing thousands of coffee shops? It was the traffic going to the Portsmouth Naval Hospital. It’s all about exposure. We learned in hotel school, there were three things needed to have a successful hotel or restaurant – location, location, location. Without exposure, we know we can’t survive long term. You could say, Starboards “closed due to progress”.
Starboards Coffee Kiosk, Gold Winner
2012 Reader's Choice Awards
"Best Coffee House" and "Best Locals' Hangout"
Starboards will "Close due to Progress"
Today, there are five coffee shops in town. When we opened there was none – two had closed and were reopening with new owners. David never worried about competition from other coffee establishments. He always told people “we have one thing they don’t have – we have Betsy”. Through the years, Betsy has given directions to thousands of people, made countless recommendations to other restaurants and other places to shop. All of this has been done with her smile. Betsy indeed became the face of Portsmouth’s waterfront.
Many of you have told us we needed to expand our business. We considered adding a patio with additional seating. However, we knew the condo association, that owns the land, would never approve that idea. Besides,
we would still be dealing with “Mother Nature’ on a daily basis. That is something we can’t control.
It is with much regret that we announce the closing of Starboards Coffee Kiosk on November 30, 2012. After almost nine years, our decision was heart wrenching and not an easy one to make. This was an extremely difficult decision with so many factors; we wanted to tell our story.
As many of you know, Starboards is a seasonal business at best. It’s an outside venue where the weather impacts us daily. David has often said, “no one wakes up when it is 32 degrees and says let’s go to Starboards”. The same holds true in the summer when it is 102 degrees. But, many of you came regardless of the weather conditions – cold, rain, extreme heat and, yes, even when we had a little snow. For that, we are just so grateful for your support.
Over the years, we looked at a numerous locations in Olde Towne. We wanted to "weatherproof" our business, provide indoor seating, offer an expanded menu and have more space for us to work. But, we realized a change in location would impact our customer’s daily routine. It was too big of a gamble for us to expect customers to change their daily patterns. It became clear to us that people came to Starboards for what it was – an outdoor venue with a spectacular view of the Portsmouth waterfront, great coffee, genuine hospitality and outstanding customer service. Betsy always said ”let’s keep it small”.
We have often said “people arrive as strangers and leave as friends”. We are proud to have introduced so many people to each other throughout the years. Locals met tourists and vice versa. With only two tables and eight chairs, it was easy to meet people.
People told us “things will change when the new apartments or condos are built where the courthouse was”. Maybe so, but we have been waiting for the economy to turn for four years so the mixed use development could begin at the old Holiday Inn site. Things take time. We understand.
Whether you arrived by boat, came by ferry, walked a dog or drove a car, Betsy was always there to help or offer advice. After all, Starboards was her “happy place”. She often lent an ear to people’s day-to-day problems and helped solve life’s issues for others. It was clear people came to Starboards to see Betsy. After all, she was our “Employee of the Year” for eight years in a row (David was always “Most-Improved”.)
All of this could not have been done without the help and support of our friends and customers. It was really you – and we mean you – that kept us going. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. When we arrived in Portsmouth in 2003, we knew no one. Thank you for becoming a part of daily lives. Many of you welcomed our grandson, Drew, who helped us summers since he was just six years old. We sincerely appreciate that.
Your support has been tireless. As a result, Starboards became the highest reviewed restaurant in Portsmouth on TripAdvisor.com, the world’s largest and most recognized travel site. Not only did your reviews make us #1 in the City, we were rated #1 among over 9,000 Virginia restaurants. We can’t thank you enough for these reviews. It really helped expand our market and introduced Starboards to many new visitors.
Your votes gave us the distinction of being named “Best Coffee House” and “Best Local’s Hangout" from the Reader’s Choice Awards in The Virginian-Pilot.
To our Facebook Fans, we appreciate your daily support, comments, posts and videos. This summer, our online community grew to over 1,200 fans. More importantly, we set a record for us by reaching over 50,000 people (yes, that’s right) in a seven-day period. It was a great way to promote our business and Portsmouth’s events. We appreciate the comments on Betsy’s daily sunrise photo of High Street Landing.
One of the highlights this summer was being asked to be interviewed for The Hampton Roads Show on WAVY 10 TV. It was a real honor to be featured on the segment “I AM Hampton Roads”.
We also wanted to thank the members of the military who have supported us. In particular, we would like to thank the U.S. Coast Guard. They have been our neighbors and friends. We have grown to know many of them and their families. From the Commandant to the Admirals of the Atlantic Area and Fifth District and those men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard that save lives daily, we are proud of what these people do for our country. That’s why we started Starboards “Coast Guard Day” back in 2005 and were proud when the City of Portsmouth was designated an official “Coast Guard City” by Congress. We leave asking your continued support of the Coast Guard. They are an important part of our community.
We are proud to say Starboards had the best customers in the world.
Over the years, we have demonstrated our commitment to the City. We promoted the City to thousands. Our website, www.visitstarbaoards .com, featured many of the attractions and events in the City. David’s blog “A New Day in Olde Towne” promoted life and events in Olde Towne Portsmouth. It was once the most read blog on HamptonRoads.com|PilotOnline.com reaching over 75,000 readers in a year.
It was really OpSail Virginia 2012 that became the turning point for us. Clearly, it was our best weekend ever. But, at the same time we realized we will never have another weekend like that. We had great weather, wonderful visitors and everything came together with a well executed plan. However, it could be another 12 years before OpSail returns. The event was a tremendous way to showcase Portsmouth’s maritime history. We enjoyed the crews from the tall ships and our friends from the Kalmar Nyckel. It was a sad day knowing many of those customers were crew members from the HMS Bounty that shipwrecked as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
We recognized early on that boating was a tremendous opportunity for Portsmouth. Betsy would try to meet each boat as they arrived at High Street Landing, often providing restaurant referrals and directions to the Commodore Theatre. On several occasions we visited Elizabeth City to drop off Portsmouth brochures, promote local marinas and High Street Landing as a way to develop referrals for boaters traveling up the Intracoastal Waterway between the two cities. Boaters would arrive year after year looking for the “coffee lady”. Betsy got to know many of them by name and soon became the “unofficial dock master” for High Street Landing. We're proud to have worked with The Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, an organization that needs continued support from the City. The maritime history of Portsmouth needs to be recognized more.
It is surprising how well a business can do with people around. Portsmouth needs tourism. The community took a big hit when the Convention and Visitors Bureau was eliminated. You don’t have to look too far up High Street to see the impact. Businesses need “feet on the street”. Without it, the future remains uncertain for many businesses.
It is not the job of the City to market people’s individual businesses. However, they have a responsibility to market the destination. Tourism is an investment which returns tax dollars to the City. Every other city in Hampton Roads recognizes the benefits of tourism. Portsmouth needs to as well. Without tourism, the City will continue to be at a competitive disadvantage.
The business community also needs the return of a real events entity. PortsEvents needs to truly be operated and expanded by an independent non-profit.
So, what’s next? We are relocating back to North Carolina. This time we’re headed to the Eastern coast. David has opportunities to work with companies on social media and digital marketing. Betsy wants to take a break and enjoy life at the beach. She is working on a book about Starboards that will include many of you. Both of us would like to have a little more quality of life.
And, what about Starboards? With the right circumstances, we have not ruled out opening another Starboards in the future. When and if that happens, you’ll all be invited because… Eventually, Everybody Lands at Starboards.
Again, thank you so much for making Starboards into a place that many people enjoyed. Most of all, you made it enjoyable for us.
So, that’s our story.
With that we leave you with one quote: The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. And, the realist knows when to adjust the sails”.
Thanks for the memories,
David & Betsy Cartier