FARMINGDALE — Capital-area commuters craving a pumpkin spice latte or a box of Munchkins from Dunkin’ Donuts soon won’t have wait till they reach Augusta or make a stop in Gardiner to satisfy their urges.
A new Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant on Maine Avenue in Farmingdale is expected to open in mid-October to early November.
The owner of the Dunkin’ Donuts in Gardiner and two other locations in Lewiston is opening the new location at 691 Maine Ave. to relieve some of the demand at the Gardiner shop.
“One of the reason we’re expanding is Gardiner is becoming too busy and our customers are experiencing a longer waiting time than I’d like to see,” said Normand Boulay Jr., of Lewiston.
The new building is largely just plywood walls right now, but its shape is distinctly Dunkin’ Donuts, with a drive-thru window on the side. It will require a widening of the road to accommodate a turn lane, Boulay said.
He declined to give the cost of the new location other than saying, “It’s a significant investment.”
The shop, which has been in the works for about a year, will employ 20 to 25 people, including eight to 12 full-time employees, Boulay said. About four will be promoted from the Gardiner location, he said.
The restaurant and the bright orange and pink double D’s adorning its signs and coffee cups are mainstays in Maine and the rest of the Northeast.
With 143 restaurants in Maine, Dunkin’ Donuts tops the Seattle-based Starbucks’ 15 and the Ontario-based Tim Hortons’ 30.
The first Dunkin’ Donuts opened in Quincy, Mass., in 1950. Nearly all of its roughly 7,300 restaurants in the U.S. are franchises, most of which can be found along the East Coast.
Just last month in Augusta, the Planning Board rejected a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts location on the city’s east side after complaints from neighbors. Two weeks later, the board signed off on a proposal to open a new Dunkin’ Donuts on Western Avenue, which will replace an existing kiosk on Sewall Street.
Once the Farmingdale location is complete, there will be eight Dunkin’ Donuts in the capital region.
Nationally, the company is gearing up for westward expansion, with a goal of 15,000 restaurants nationwide. It shut off franchising opportunities in most Northeast states to people without franchises already.
California, with only one Dunkin’ Donuts on a military base and more than 2,000 Starbucks, is expected to see more Dunkin’ Donuts opening by 2015.
In central Maine, most of the Dunkin’ Donuts are in Augusta. The closest of the city’s five locations is about four miles north of Farmingdale, but Boulay said his new store isn’t likely to cannibalize sales from them, he said.
Part of the process of being approved by Dunkin’ Donuts for a franchise location is determining whether it will hurt other locations.
“They’re very, very careful with that,” Boulay said.
Closer than Augusta to the new Farmingdale Dunkin’ Donuts, however, is an independently owned drive-thru coffee shop that sells coffee beverages and doughnuts.
Cup N’ Cruise opened a year ago in June about a mile and half down Maine Avenue to draw more people to a car wash connected to it.
Shawn Thurston, of Mount Vernon, who owns the coffee shop and car wash with his wife, Janice, said they wanted to provide a more personal experience than a chain restaurant.
The shop serves exclusively coffee from Coffee By Design, a roaster with locations in Portland and Freeport, which Thurston said sets it apart from Dunkin’ Donuts and other chains. He said he sees his shop appealing to a niche market wanting higher-end coffee.
Thurston said that’s why the incoming franchise probably won’t affect his business.
“If they’re going to go to Dunkin’ Donuts, they can go to Gardiner anyways,” he said.
Jaime Nix, one of the two regular employees at the drive-thru restaurant, said the shop’s customers are loyal and she also isn’t worried about Dunkin’ Donuts taking them away.
“I’m more concerned about it impeding the growth we potentially have,” she said at the drive-thru last week.
Nix, of Gardiner, said a lot of customers like coming because of the personal connections with the employees who know about their vacations, their grandchildren and their dogs’ names.
“That once a week to get a doughnut is more than getting a doughnut,” she said. “It’s seeing your friends.”
The big-box chain versus a mom-and-pop operation is a familiar battle, and although being a linchpin in a community helps, franchise chains benefit from already being well-known, said Richard Grotton, president of the Maine Restaurant Association.
“They do know what they’re going to get in a Dunkin’ Donuts, and they know it’s going to be consistent,” Grotton said. “If they’ve developed tastes for that brand, they’re going to seek it out.”
He said being able to be a challenger competitor immediately is one of the reasons people pay the sometimes high franchise fees to open new locations.
Grotton said he expects the company to succeed in its westward expansion, partly because of its ability to adopt to a variety of beverages and food options.
“I think Dunkin’ Donuts will do fine, as Starbucks has done fine moving east, especially in big cities,” he said.
The company also admits it’s no longer focused on doughnuts.
Chief Financial Officer Paul Carbone told investors and analysts in June that Dunkin’ Donuts is a beverage company, according to Forbes.
“Fred the Baker is not coming back,” he said, referring to the mascot of the 1980s and 1990s that appeared in commercials.
The numbers back it up. Fifty-eight percent of sales at franchises in 2012 came from coffee and other beverages.
Cup N’ Cruise also is trying to expand its offering beyond coffee drinks and doughnuts. Nix said it plans to add hot dogs and soda to the menu soon. But she said the doughnuts, which are made on site every day, still draw in a lot of customers.
“We definitely have a huge clientele for our doughnuts,” Nix said.
Paul Koenig — 621-5663