The second Dunkin Donuts in the entire Bay Area opened in the cozy beach town of Half Moon Bay on Monday and for East Coast and Midwest transplants, renewed proximity to their favorite childhood chain is a sprinkle-covered thrill.
I made the 30-mile drive down the coast to witness the second most important opening of a Dunkin' Donuts in the San Francisco metro area and can report that the event was drenched in seaside mist and small-town enthusiasm.
A balloon arch in Dunkies' trademark orange and pink greeted customers of the brand new, jam-packed storefront. A rather grandiose step-and-repeat remained mostly ignored by the crowd, due to either the town's notorious heavy fog or the disappointing lack of paparazzi. The new doughnut shop occupies a former fast-food chicken restaurant, and is attached to a gas station food mart not your typical step-and-repeat venue, but I digress. Throughout the morning, a gentleman dressed as an iced coffee named "Cuppy" posed with children and "dignitaries" while bemused coffee snobs watched the proceedings from a Peet's Coffee across the parking lot.
According to those in charge, the first 100 guests in line for Monday's 6 a.m. opening were given a bright orange swag bag filled with
jelly Dunkin' merchandise and treats. A Bay Area transplant and Dunkin' die-hard from Allentown, Pennsylvania arrived at 9 p.m. the night before to secure his place as the location's first official customer and recipient of a $100 donut gift card.
At 9 a.m., a fabulously orange-hued woman from the Half Moon Bay Chamber of Commerce excitedly announced to the assembled crowd that it was time for the official ribbon cutting. Members of the City Council and local Boys and Girls Club as well as a handful of well-wishers dutifully gathered in the Dunkin' parking lot to hear remarks from the Mayor and the franchise's new owners. Every few minutes, the small crowd would have to step out of the way to let a drive-thru customer pass.
After a brief discussion of just which set giant scissors would be used to cut the ribbon, the snip was made and Half Moon Bay was (and is) officially in possession of an open and operating Dunkin' Donuts.
"This is one of the rare cases where I didn't hear any discontent from the community," confessed Half Moon Bay Mayor Rick Kowalczyk. "All I heard were positive comments and enthusiasm."
Vishal Shah is a partner with "California Donut Kings" which has exclusive rights to open Dunkin' Donuts in Alameda and San Mateo counties. The second-generation Dunkin' franchisee owns 22 Dunkin' Donuts, mostly in the "Chicagoland" area.
"I was, gosh, nine years old when my dad opened his first Dunkin'" Shah said.
The California Donut Kings chose Half Moon Bay for their first location due in large part to what Shah called "the community feel." "The drive-thru is obviously an important part of our business," explained Shah, before handing off a giant check for $1,000 to the Half Moon Bay Boys and Girls Club.
According to Shah, the most popular doughnut variety is glazed, followed by chocolate, chocolate with sprinkles, and plain. "People get plain so they can dunk it in their coffee," said Shah. "That's where the name comes from. You know, dunking."
The doughnut chain previously had a small but significant presence in California, but the company decided to divest itself of the market, closing the few remaining franchises here in the 1990's. There are currently plans to open 200 locations across the state in the coming years.
Dunkin' devotees take note: the Kings' next openings will be in South San Francisco and Fremont. Half Moon Bay's Dunkin' Donuts is located at 120 San Mateo Avenue along Pacific Coast Highway 1.
Also take note: SF is scheduled to get its own Dunkin' Donuts, according to an earlier report, later this year, though the location has not been made public and everything in SF gets delayed.