Dunkin’s Run: A Love Story

Since opening the doors of its original shop 60 years ago, Dunkin’ Donuts has grown into an international juggernaut. Here’s why Bostonians don’t hold that against it.

By Francis Storrs | Boston Magazine |

OVER THE COURSE of six decades, Dunkin’ Donuts has grown from a single shop in Quincy to a multibillion-dollar behemoth. It’s expanded into 35 states and 31 countries, dramatically changed its menu, and even been unceremoniously sold to foreign conglomerates and faceless private equity firms. Through it all, though, Dunkin’ has somehow managed to retain a distinctly local feel. America may now run on Dunkin’, but it’s New England that can’t seem to live without it. So how did this chain — which by all rights should be just another fast-food joint — implant itself so deeply in our regional identity? On the 60th anniversary of the company’s founding, we asked New Englanders of all varieties to explain the enduring hold Dunkin’ Donuts has on us.

[sidebar]Steve Siegel, former Dunkin’ franchisee: Look, there are more Dunkin’s per capita in Massachusetts than there are any other restaurant of its type anywhere. You see it everywhere, on television every day, on the radio every day. You’re born hearing it.

Amanda Carey, Dunkin’ customer, Theater District: It’s very New England to me. It’s my homegrown coffee. I can look outside my window and see seven Dunkin’ Donuts. I’m not even kidding. Two of them in the same building.

William Martin, novelist: Why do we love Dunkin’ Donuts? When my kids were little they knew that on Sunday afternoon my father would be coming to watch the Patriots, and Grandpa always brought their favorite doughnuts.

Robert Kraft, owner, New England Patriots: My morning coffee ritual tends to change during the football season. When we win I like to go inside my local Dunkin’ Donuts for my “large with milk, no sugar.” When we lose, I go through the drive-through.  

Leonard Blanchette, Dunkin’ customer, Newton: I grew up Catholic, and my older sisters and I used to “go to Mass.” We’d go to Dunkin’ Donuts instead. I was nominated to run to the back of the church and grab the bulletin, to make it look like we went. My mother once asked who gave Mass, and my sister said, “Father Dunkin’.”

Ernie Boch Jr., owner, Boch Automotive Enterprises: When we were kids, my family used to go to church, and then we’d buy the newspaper in front of the shop in Norwood. I’d sneak in and watch them make the doughnuts.

Peggy Rose, owner, Peggy Rose Public Relations: I probably spend $1,000 a year there — coffee every day, the occasional bagel, doughnuts for the kids. Why am I doing this? I don’t care. I’m not giving it up. I’d rather give up cable.

Johnny Lu, Dunkin’ customer, Back Bay: I come here every day. I don’t feel good without it.

Eddie Napolillo, founder, “Let’s Bring Dunkin’ Donuts to Los Angeles” Facebook group: I grew up in Rhode Island. Working in construction, we would send a guy out for a Dunkin’ run. I don’t have that here in L.A.

Tom Schwarz, former president, Dunkin’:  Dunkin’ Donuts is an icon today. But you don’t build customer loyalty overnight — it took 60 years to do it.

 

  • Scott

    We all grew up on the sunday morning runs for fresh donuts, but that certainly is not their biz today. Donuts are made in a factory and just plain horrible. Most folks are just addicted to the caffeine these days to combat the no sleep they’re getting, aren’t they?

  • Robin

    Loved the article and also enjoyed the on-air interview on WRKO. I lived in Boston as a student in the 60′s! DD is the best and I will go no where else to buy my coffee and/or donuts! Thanks for the great article Francis! Long live DD!

  • Mike