Dunkin' Donuts is, indeed, coming to Duluth.
But not this spring as initially promised.
The first Dunkin' Donuts restaurant in Northeastern Minnesota will open at the site of a former liquor store on the southwest corner of Central Entrance and Basswood Avenue in Duluth.
Exactly when is unclear. Franchise owner Brian Weidendorf last summer expected to open the store this spring. But summer or fall is more likely.
The existing 2,800-square-foot building at 104 W. Central Entrance, formerly Warehouse Liquor, must first be razed and a new building constructed on its foundation.
A plan review for the project is pending before the Duluth Planning Commission. It calls for a 2,300-square-foot building with indoor seating, a drive-through, 22 parking spaces and landscaping.
Weidendorf, a developer based in Hinckley with more than 30 years of experience in real estate, and his wife, Sharon, bought the multistore Dunkin' Donuts franchise for the Northland last year. The agreement calls for them to open at least seven stores in Northeastern Minnesota within five years. He planned to open the first store in Duluth this spring in a remodeled existing building. But those plans changed to rebuilding the 1955 structure.
Weidendorf planned to follow the Duluth store with a brand-new store on South Tower Avenue in Superior and then open stores in cities around the region such as Hibbing, Brainerd and Grand Rapids.
"It'll be a lot more," he told the News Tribune in July. "It could be 20 stores in the next five years."
He expected the second round of openings would include more stores in the Twin Ports.
The News Tribune sought an update last week, but Weidendorf did not return a reporter's calls. A staff member who has been working on property acquisition for the stores also did not return calls.
The purchase of the property at 104 W. Central Entrance for $650,000 was finalized in November, according to St. Louis County property records. Land & Lease Development, a limited liability company with Weidendorf as its principal, serves as the title holder.
Duluth real estate agent Tracey Tellor, who has been working with them for more than a year, brokered the sale. Although she isn't aware of any other locations in the Duluth area that they're looking at, she said: "They're expanding."
The global doughnut and coffeehouse chain based in Canton, Mass., has 11,000 stores in the world and competes with Starbucks. The Northeastern Minnesota franchise is a key part of its push to re-enter the Minnesota market after more than a 15-year absence. Its Minnesota comeback began a year ago with the opening of a store in Rochester. Other stores are expected in southeastern Minnesota, while franchise buyers are being sought elsewhere in Minnesota, including the Twin Cities.
While Dunkin' Donuts is best known for its coffee and pastry, it also offers breakfast and lunch menus.