Starbucks: Chapters Polo Park – Coffee Shop Laptop Friendliness Rating

Website: starbucks.ca
Location: 695 Empress Street, Winnipeg, MB
Hours: Mon – Sat – 9a – 10p; Sun – 12p – 6p

Starbucks in the Polo Park Chapters was the first Starbucks to appear in Winnipeg (around 1999 according to my wife). It opened alongside a Baked Expectations storefront which served their (amazing) desserts and pastries.

In the years since, the Baked Expectations shut down and eventually – once it was clear that no tenant could be found – the service counter and equipment were removed and the space was converted into more seating for Starbucks. This created the largest Starbucks I’ve ever been to, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the largest Starbucks in the World (by square footage).

This location has a number of unique features that make it pretty ideal for the laptop worker.

When the restaurant was removed, they left the electrical plugs originally intended for countertop equipment in place. So you’ve got an entire wall of plugs available to you in that area, more than enough for the seating. At some point in the past the area also contained an Internet Café (a link for the youngins). The computers have long since disappeared, but they’ve left the six desks intact, complete with ample electrical outlets. As if that wasn’t enough, I also noticed a publicly accessible plugin on a pillar near the bar.

The location is a little out of the way, because of this it doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic. Which is not to say it’s not busy. It would seem that I’m not the only one who’s discovered this hidden gem. The tables and desks are usually jam packed with laptops. There have been a few times when I’ve arrived after 1pm and not been able to find a table.

The seating consists of the standard wooden chairs, with small round tables. The 3 former internet surfing desks are quite large, designed for 2 chairs – and when it’s busy both chairs are usually occupied. There are a number of comfy-looking armchairs around the fireplace (yes it even has a fireplace!).

The WiFi is provided by Bell, like most Starbucks across the country. It’s free after you agree to a TOS screen. It’s reliable, but tends to slow down quite a bit when it starts to fill up. I think the number of laptop connections is probably a little outside the design specs of these systems Bell rolls out.

A couple of other minor things. It only opens at 9am, if you’re an early riser this might not work for you. There’s essentially no public transit access and the walk from Polo Park Shopping Centre is farther than it looks.

On to the rating:

  • Busyness: Great. Little foot traffic, but show up early to get a table.
  • Seating: Great!
  • Noise/Ambiance: Fine.
  • Power: Great!
  • WiFi: Fine.
Overall Rating: Great.

Historical sidebar: The official name of this location is “Velodrome Chapters”. Turns out the Chapters was built on the site of the Veldrodome used in the 1967 Pam-Am Game. Who knew Winnipeg once had a velodrome.

Wikipedia