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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dunkin Do-Not!

I could understand some enthusiasm if long-absent-from-the-St.-Louis-area Dunkin Donuts, a chain based in Massachusetts, were reestablishing a presence in the Lou with a couple stores. A dozen would seem fitting, would it not?

According to this press release, Dunkin Donuts is planning over 100 stores for the St. Louis region over the next "several years". One hundred! Holey-donuts! My eyes just glazed over!

Is this a sweet surprise or a weighty issue?

Okay, I'll stop with terrible donut puns. But I won't stop Twittering and generally ranting about my disappointment over the Dunkin Donuts invasion into St. Louis.

I know, I know; realistically, how many of these could possibly come to the city proper anyway? If we falsely assume it's a function of population share, well, St. Louis City has about ten percent of the bloated region's population. So we can expect roughly ten stores in the city over whatever the next "several years" means. And the first stores to be opened won't be in the city--they're already confirmed for Kirkwood, Lambert Airport, and somewhere in northwest county.

I also know that many people really like Dunkin Donuts, as in, suggest they have a really good product. Well, I have just one warning for you people.

Remember these guys?

Yeah, they used to be this neat, cutting-edge, and actually urban chain of stores that popularized the custom coffee drink and forever enshrined the espresso machine into middle class hearts and minds. Then they decided to go on a expanza-bonanza and open up a million-and-a-half free-standing suburban stores as if an errant barista splattered soy-latte shrapnel every which way over the landscape. They became, well, a boxy blight and were punished for their aggressive expansion strategy, having been forced to close hundreds of "under-performing" stores recently, including a nearly brand new one on South Seventh adjacent to Soulard. (By the way, I don't delight in the fact that they closed; I just think you reap what you sow).

(Wait--why haven't I yet mentioned that other donut chain that, at least at one point, was in danger of collapse from over-expansion)


So now we have Dunkin Donuts aggressively re-entering the St. Louis market. There just has to be a point of oversaturation for (suburban-style, drive-through) donuts in St. Louis. I worry that the locals who have already toughed out one round of Dunkin might be the first to bite the bullet this time.

I'm thinking about:

My favorite in the city, World's Fair Donuts, cleverly named for its address (1904 S. Vandeventer):

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O'Fashion Donuts just down the road at 5120 Southwest.

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Donut Drive-In at 6525 Chippewa, with a newly restored original Route 66 sign!

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Two more interesting St. Louis donut stories for you to, ahem, digest:

-Eddie's Southtown Donuts (4701 S. Kingshighway) has torn down a nice Arts and Crafts home for a drive-through, in one of the city's most stable neighborhoods. More on that at St. Louis City Talk. But the lesson of the story is that, due to the city's zoning and haphazard preservation laws, we might see some Dunkin demolitions in order to fit that drive-through as well!

-John Donut Company (on S. Broadway in Kosciusko--I've never been) is apparently open from midnight until 1pm. Yes, it opens at midnight. Who knew you could get fresh donuts all night in a neighborhood with no residential population?

That's about all I can stomach talking about donuts at this point. Just remember to support St. Louis's unique local businesses. Their "corporate headquarters" are located right here in St. Louis, not Massachusetts.


stlouismb said...

My only concerns are the number of outlets and the "tear-down" probability. I would love one or two good donut shops in the downtown area where I shop.

I miss DD from my short stint out East. So, I would be happy to see a DD shop or two sprinkled around the metro. I do patronize the others you mentioned, though they require quite a commute for me coming from north of downtown.

DD's is like Macy's. Every big city should have one or two just to prove you are grown up. :)


STLgasm said...

There used to be a really awesome little free-standing Dunkin Donuts on 4th Street in front of the Mansion House towers until the early '90s when it was torn down for the Radisson's new lobby. It was very urban and reminded me of New York. Back then, downtown had a hustle and bustle that just doesn't exist today. Although most people would say that downtown is healthier today, there is no disputing that the streets were much much busier back then.

Brian said...

I am currently enjoying a World's Fair donut - picked up a dozen on the way into work today. Delicious!

Since my focus is on downtown, I would love to have a donut shop in downtown St. Louis, since we currently don't have one. My preference would be to have a local donut shop, as opposed to DD. The problem is that DD is likely the only shop that would actually locate downtown. We have so many great local donut shops on the south side, but how do we convince someone to open one downtown?

Matt M. said...

For the record, I'm not opposed to/unhappy with the idea of a couple Dunkin Donuts stores. Indeed, if no local has taken root, Dunkin Donuts would serve a need/want downtown. Great.

Now, how to get a donut shop downtown? I would--and probably will--email some locals to let them know you think there is a massive void that they could fill downtown. I know I've made comments before about not wanting to see locals "chain out"...but to me, a local chain > national chain.

In the meantime, that John Donut place is an easy drive from downtown.

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Ted said...

My work takes me to different parts of the country, and if you have every gotten a chance to drive around MA or CT, you will quickly notice the over saturation of of these store. It has become a joke among some of my coworkers. In some cases you will see them about every half mile. In one case that I saw, there is one just down the street from the another one. I truly doubt that they will use older buildings since most of their store are drive-thrus.

Ted said...

store should be stores...too early. :)

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