Definitely thinking about Dunkin’Robin Washington column: If you’ve never been to one, you probably don’t know what the big deal is all about. As any Dunkin’ Donuts aficionado will tell you, the appeal isn’t just the doughnuts.
On a trip to the East Coast last fall, I downloaded the Dunkin’ Donuts iPhone app. It’s pretty cool — hit “find” and a GPS map pops up, with a pulsating blue dot that leads you to the nearest store.
In Duluth, that would be in Wisconsin Dells. But not for long.
“We are looking to find franchise partners who can help us re-enter into Minnesota,” Steve Rafferty, the brand’s franchising chief, told me from suburban Boston on Friday as rumors swirled of a possible Duluth store.
He said “re-enter” because Dunkin’ was in Minnesota until the late 1990s; stores Rafferty acknowledged weren’t serviced well by the company then.
“We realized we didn’t have the best infrastructure and support for our franchisees,” he said. “We know that we’re ready now. We have the support.”
They certainly have the interest. If you’ve never been to one, you probably don’t know what the big deal is all about. As any Dunkin’ aficionado will tell you, the appeal isn’t just the doughnuts.
“Dunks is not about the doughnuts; it’s about the coffee,” my former Boston Herald colleague Steve Flynn explained for the benefit of Northland residents. “A Krispy Kreme doughnut is fun,” he said of a competitor also missing from Minnesota, “but it’s nothing stacked up against a medium regular hot from Dunks.”
Make mine a small regular (New England parlance for cream and sugar, says Rafferty) which, unlike the larger sizes served in styrofoam, comes in a paper cup. It’s environmentally friendly, sure, but also a better way to ingest your fix. Why would anyone want to drink out of something that squeaks when it touches your teeth?
And with all due respect to my friends at Starbucks and Caribou, Dunkin’ coffee is just smoother. Or maybe it’s a kinder, gentler, liquid cousin to nicotine.
I’m not alone. The comments poured into my Facebook page.
“My son would LOVE a Dunkin’ Donuts in Duluth,” says recent Boston transplant Liz Wright, now teaching at the University of Minnesota Duluth. “The lack of a Dunkin’ Donuts is one of the few things he doesn’t like about Duluth.”
Ditto for Duluth’s Lisa Ronnquist, originally of equally Dunkin’-free Cass Lake.
“Had my first run in with Dunkin’ when I was on the East Coast,” she said. “Definitely need one here. Look at the empty storefronts downtown. One would fit perfectly,” she said — hitting on the big question: Where to put one?
“Near UMD,” said new Duluth City Councilor Barb Russ.
“Hermantown,” pitched in John Sorenson.
“My neighborhood (West Duluth),” said Pat Alvar, “or the Miller Hill Mall area.”
“London Road,” said Donde Goldfine, reading my mind.
“Enger Park, next to the tower,” offered a creative Yaakov Waters.
“Anyplace. Make sure Superior gets one,” said Missy Petracek.
All right; not everyone does wants one. Krispy Kreme got a few votes, and Superior’s Melanie Keveles and Jill Bugbee of Duluth suggested I push instead for a Trader Joe’s, another Duluth retail deprivation.
“Would you talk to the Trader Joe’s people?” Keveles asked. “Would they listen to you?”
Who knows, but I did get the Dunkin’ guy to confirm that they’re looking to open 50 stores in the Twin Cities area and greater Minnesota, including Duluth. And with the promise to myself that I wouldn’t eat the inventory (I took off 20 pounds after leaving Dunkin’ land and don’t plan on getting it back), owning my own did cross my mind.
Potential franchisees are required to have $250,000 minimum liquid assets and a $500,000 minimum net worth per unit, with the idea they’d open more than one store, Rafferty explained.
“We’re looking for someone who could build half a dozen to a dozen restaurants,” he said.
Guess that puts me out of the running, unless someone wants a silent partner.
Nah. Scratch me out on that, too. I write a newspaper column. That means I talk too much.
Robin Washington is editor of the News Tribune. He may be reached at email@example.com.