At times, it may seem we cover Amazon too much. Yes, we get it: They’re not a small business. So why do we include news items about them? In reality, the news we post about Amazon typically pertains to the company’s seeming desire to be both a provider of services to small businesses while also being a competitor with small businesses over some market niche. We can never quite figure it out.


According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, an architect has submitted plans to a local planning agency for a new 11,600-square-foot building and drive-thru grocery pickup area in Sunnyvale, California in Silicon Valley. “Amazon is not named in planning documents, but real estate sources familiar with Amazon’s concept said Amazon is the likely tenant,” the paper says.

Is this for real?

As we have explained extensively in the past, Amazon wants to get as close as possible to its customers. (Even sending a drone to your front door.) This includes delivery services, pick-up lockers in large cities and developing a network of stores that serve as both a pick-up spot for orders made online and, perhaps, to display some of its most popular items.

One more thing: Amazon has a grocery delivery service called Amazon Fresh that might fit nicely with a drive-thru concept. However, companies like Walmart, are constantly testing small footprint concepts.

So it wouldn’t be a big surprise that Amazon would also be testing a variety of such concepts.

However, it could be a red herring

Silicon Valley seems an odd place to test a concept. It would be like opening a Broadway Show on Broadway and not “on the road.” Places like Nashville, Cincinnati and Indianapolis are the kinds of markets where a company tests new concepts: cities big and diverse enough to serve as a microcosm of the entire nation, but outside the media microscope enough to provide cover for quiet failure. (To carry forth the Broadway metaphor, Amazon should try it out somewhere else so it can avoid being like Spiderman, the Musical.)

A company like Amazon generates lots of ideas. (Even its product pages are constantly A/B tested.) It wouldn’t be surprising if this was a paper-only concept that doesn’t make it past the idea stage.

If real, will it hurt small businesses?

In the areas where Amazon.com may roll out such a concept, their likely competitors will be upscale grocery chains (Whole Foods, Sprouts, Fresh Market, etc.). In other words, if your business is a direct competitor of one of those, there is a possibility that an Amazon drive-thru would pose a threat. The concept seems more likely to be aiming for Walmart than local retailers, however.

Speaking of drive thrus

New Orleans has what we think is the most unusual (and ridiculously dangerous) drive-thru concept: the daiquiri drive-thru. Yes, they’re legal, as long as you don’t have a straw in the drink. Yelp! even ranks them.