Dunkin’ Donuts was supposed to be opening a new shop on Government Street in Mobile, Ala. But concerns from neighbors halted the project in an area where Krispy Kreme once ruled. (file photo)
Bud McPerson, with Victor Signs, loads up the Krispy Kreme sign onto a flatbed trailer outside the doughnut shop at the corner of Government Street and Bradford Avenue Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011. The shop, which had been open for 40 years, was shut down in late 2011. (file photo)
Since 2011, glazed memories have been all that’s left of the iconic Krispy Kreme on Government Street that shut abruptly two days after Christmas.
Now, a Dunkin’ Donuts project has emerged to fill the hole left close to where the “Hot Now” neon light blinked off for the final time.
Perhaps surprisingly, locals in the surrounding Leinkauf area aren’t happy.
“Whether people who grew up with Krispy Kreme prefer it and see Dunkin’ Donuts as an invader, I don’t know,” said Bill Boswell, who remembers walking as a kid to the Krispy Kreme and who’s the past president of the Leinkauf neighborhood organization, which represents 2,500 to 3,500 residents.
Said Levon Manzie, who represents the area on the City Council: “Krispy Kreme is a Mobile mainstay. I’m hopeful there is a big enough doughnut appetite that we can have a Dunkin’ Donuts and a Krispy Kreme on the same street.”
A marker for the historic Leinkauf neighborhood is visible on Government Street in downtown Mobile next to the site which was proposed for a new Dunkin’ Donuts. The project was scrapped after concerns were raised by neighbors. (John Sharpfirstname.lastname@example.org).
For now, the Dunkin’ Donuts project is at a standstill, being tabled by the commercial real-estate firm that was backing it, Merrill P. Thomas Co. of Mobile.
Pratt Thomas, a developer on the Government Street project, attributed the decision to “concerns from the neighbors.” He said that Dunkin’ Donuts, the corporation, doesn’t want to “move forward” at the moment.
Thomas had agreed to participate in a neighborhood meeting to discuss the project’s pro’s and con’s. After pullback, that meeting is expected to be canceled. “I don’t know where we’ll go from here,” he said.
The neighborhood concerns run the gamut: Worries about traffic, noise, litter and vagrancy, and fears for the property’s fate if Dunkin’ were to pull out.
Also of concern is the future of two live oak trees, which neighbors said would be sawn down to accommodate the drive-thru. Tree removal is a touchy subject in Mobile, as evidenced by the uproar that followed the cutting of an oak tree at a public park so that it could decorate President Donald Trump’s December rally at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
“There must be 25 different issues that are in play here,” said Ed Barry, current president of the neighborhood association.
None of the publicly cited concerns, however, include references to bringing back Krispy Kreme rather than welcoming a rival.
“I don’t think these are just Krispy Kreme fans trying to sabotage Dunkin’ Donuts,” said Manzie. “These are legitimate concerns.”
Krispy Kreme surprisingly shut its four-decade-old Government Street doughnut emporium on Dec. 27, 2011.
At the time, Krispy Kreme representatives said there was no room on the property for a drive-thru. A Dairy Queen Grill & Chill, with a drive-thru, has since occupied the location.
Krispy Kreme’s closure rated as one of the top traumatic local stories of the year, with AL.com running a January 2012 piece about coping with grief stemming from the loss.
Paul Mullins, author of the 2008 book “Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut,” said Krispy Kreme, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., “is as Southern as a chain gets” and while Boston-based Dunkin’ Donuts might still be viewed as a “Northern product.”
Today, however, there are slightly more Dunkin’ Donut shops in Alabama than Krispy Kreme. Mobile only has one Krispy Kreme location, which is in west Mobile and far from the urban core.
Mullins said that the Leinkauf controversy appears to be more of a “not-in-my-backyard” protest about more commercial encroachment.
“If you want a doughnut, you’ll get it whether it’s a local mom-and-pop shop or a Dunkin’ Donuts or a Krispy Kreme,” said Mullins, a professor of anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. “There are so many possibilities for the doughnut. It’s a magical food. It’s right up there with the pig.”
Leinkauf representatives say they would have opposed the project even if it were a Krispy Kreme.
A protest opposing a new Dunkin’ Donuts shop on Government Street in Mobile, Ala., was held on Sunday, July 9, 2017. Among the concerns from residents was the sawing down of live oak trees to make room for the doughnut shop. (photo courtesy of Alison Roberts Henry via Facebook).
Boswell explained: “If Krispy Kreme came in and put in the same type of proposal for this building and design that was not architecturally suitable and were creating traffic concerns with the drive-up and wanted to cut down the live oak trees so they can have a slowdown lane, I think there would have been as much of an uproar whether it was Krispy Kreme or anyone else.”
Boswell said that a development at the Dunkin’ Donuts site has been discussed with Thomas’ development group for more than two years. He said residents have been particularly opposed to a fast-food restaurant at the site, and with a drive-thru.
Said Boswell: “We saw this mainly as a restaurant that is trying to catch people as they get through our neighborhood before they go to work. It’s not a venue where neighbors can go there and sit down and serve as a gathering place.”
He added, “The neighborhood can be supportive … hopefully that will happen. Maybe we can put our efforts now instead of being in opposition, we can work with the developer and the city to try and find a workable solution.”