There are lots of things in life that some people just don’t “get.”

The humor of Carrot Top, for example. The fact that you should signal before making a turn. Donald Trump’s hair.

Add to that the allure of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Especially in the land of Dunkin’ Donuts, a New England-based chain that serves average-guy coffee and features the beloved Red Sox in its commercials, it’s hard for people to understand why Krispy Kreme doughnuts promote such a cult-like fervor. Not everyone likes the 190-calorie treats, but those who do don’t mind sharing stories of hunting for the “hot sign” along the highway – the sign at every store that, when it’s lit, signals that hot doughnuts are just coming out of the oven.

1067752_943319 boxes.jpgThese days, Krispy Kreme is a bit of a throwback to an era before doughnuts became “artisanal” and required more than a simple sugar glaze to make customers happy. Today, Maine is full of artisanal doughnut shops – The Holy Donut, Frosty’s and Tony’s, to name a few – but few Mainers have had the chance to try an original glazed Krispy Kreme.

That will soon change, thanks to Cort Mendez, a New Hampshire businessman who is opening three of the stores in Maine and four in New Hampshire under the franchise name NH Glazed LLC. The company announced last week that one of the stores will be in Auburn; construction is expected to be completed this fall. Other towns in the running for a store include Portland, South Portland, Bangor, Augusta, Windham, Brunswick, Biddeford and Kittery.


Sylas Hatch, a broker with NAI, The Dunham Group in Portland, is scouting out locations. He checks out potential spots, evaluating “a lot of different metrics” – like drive times and traffic counts – before turning possibilities over to Mendez for further review. The locations need to be big enough to hold the Krispy Kreme baking equipment, Hatch said.

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Hatch tried Krispy Kreme doughnuts in Florida, so he understands what all the fuss is about. And he knows that the doughnut shops could provide an economic boost to some of the communities he scouts. Some towns have actually tried to lobby him, mostly smaller places that need the leg up. Edgecomb, for one, was one of the interested towns that contacted him, according to Hatch, “but it just doesn’t have the pull that we really need. We’re looking at all the big markets. I love it up there. It’s just not quite big enough for us.”

Here’s an idea: We recall a past invader from the north named Tim Hortons retreating back to its home territory in Canada last year. Surely vacant Tim Hortons spots would be a turnkey opportunity for Krispy Kreme, this invader from the South? Not necessarily, Hatch says. Those locations typically have deed restrictions that prohibit future tenants from selling doughnuts. “You’d think they wouldn’t care,” Hatch says, “but that’s pretty common in retail.”

While Hatch is searching for locations, Mendez has been training at Krispy Kreme franchises in Orlando and Las Vegas, doing everything from making doughnuts to learning how to repair and maintain the equipment. He was careful not to arrive hungry.

“Going into the doughnut shop every day and watching the doughnuts coming fresh off the belt required a tremendous amount of self-discipline to not overindulge,” Mendez wrote in an email from an overseas trip last week.

Fresh memories


The doughnuts are made from a flour mix that comes from the Krispy Kreme headquarters in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Other ingredients are added on-site, Mendez said. If the doughnuts haven’t been sold by the time they are 12 hours old, they are either donated or thrown out.

That dedication to freshness is one of the things that hooks Krispy Kreme customers. Portland chef Damian Sansonetti, co-owner of Piccolo and Caiola’s, became a fan when he lived in New York City. Alysia Zoidis, owner of East End Cupcakes has fond memories of them, too, though it has been close to 30 years since she last ate a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut.

1067752_943319 hotsign.jpgIn her family, her mom was the food police, making sure Zoidis and her brother never consumed sugary sodas or cereals. Her dad was a different story. During summer vacation, they’d drive from her father’s home in Massachusetts down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to visit cousins.

“Once he got to a certain point and Krispy Kremes started showing up, my dad would just announce that if the hot sign is on, we’re stopping – no matter how late we were running, or how badly we wanted to get to our final destination,” Zoidas recalled.

Zoidis loved the light, airy doughnuts as a kid, but admits she probably won’t go out of her way for them when Krispy Kreme comes to Maine. She is more of a breakfast sandwich person these days.

Maine comedian Karen Morgan, who grew up in Athens, Georgia, also has cherished childhood memories of eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts and selling them for school fundraisers. Every year, a friend mails her a box of the doughnuts for her birthday. They are flat by the time they reach Maine, Morgan says, but she doesn’t mind. And earlier this year, she made a “pilgrimage” to the Krispy Kreme corporate offices.


“When I go home, I do not pass one without stopping,” Morgan said. “If the hot sign is on, I will eat a dozen. Not even kidding. A visit to Krispy Kreme is required on every trip down home.”

Will Mainers be converts?

But even such unbridled ardor won’t guarantee success in Maine. When the southeastern chain first tried to expand into New England in the mid-2000s, it was a bust. What makes Mendez think things will be different this time around?

“The reason Krispy Kreme fell upon hard times, not just in New England, but throughout the country, had everything to do with placing locations too close together as well as building facilities that were twice the size of the current model,” he said. “Since then, Krispy Kreme has been re-opening in many of the exact same markets that they struggled in some years ago.”

Nor is Mendez worried about competition from Dunkin’ Donuts. As he sees it, the slogan “America runs on Dunkin'” refers to its coffee, not its doughnuts. “Krispy Kreme is in the doughnut business,” he said.

Dunkin’ Donuts makes its doughnuts daily in central baking facilities throughout Maine and then delivers them to individual stores. But coffee is its biggest seller. According to Dana Reid, field marketing manager for Dunkin’ Donuts, about 58 percent of Dunkin’ Donut franchisee-reported sales for fiscal year 2015 were generated from coffee and other beverages.


1067752_943319 originalcut.jpgIndustry analyst Andrew Alvarez of IBISWorld says Dunkin’ Donuts’ real competition is Starbucks.

“By revenue, Starbucks holds 40 percent of the industry, so that’s the person to dethrone,” he said.

Dunkin’ Donuts claims about 22 percent market share. Krispy Kreme holds just under 2 percent of the market, just below Tim Hortons.

To increase its share, Krispy Kreme is adding menu items, including coffee-flavored snacks, as it also expands its reach – it has 130 new stores in development nationwide. In May, the company was purchased by JAB Beech Inc., a subsidiary of JAB Holding Co., which also owns Caribou Coffee, Keurig Green Mountain, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Intelligentsia and Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Many industry insiders are speculating about the corporation’s plans for the many brands now in its portfolio, Alvarez said, guessing that – contrary to what Mendez says – the company is about to expand its coffee menu big-time.

But our waistlines should be more worried about the doughnuts, which will soon be only a drive-thru away. And thanks to Krispy Kreme school fundraisers, little salespeople who are hard to say no to may soon start showing up at our doors.

God help us, they even have a Krispy Kreme rewards program.


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