Columnist John Paradis: It’s ‘wicked smaht’ to tip a cup to the little guy

  • A Dunkin’ Donuts logo. AP

Published: 10/7/2021 1:39:06 PM

Some years ago, a friend from my Air Force days heard me talk about my New England roots way too many times and decided to take her family out to our state and see the “spirit of America.”

Her family hit all the attractions, starting in Boston, then Concord and Lexington and then down the south shore to see Plymouth Rock, before getting over to the Cape.

This was before widespread use of GPS navigation while driving and way before smartphones.

Traveling here from her home down south, she found it amusing that people would give her directions by the location of the Dunkin’ in town.

“I’d get off the highway, and a gas station guy would tell me, ‘Take a right at the Dunkin’, then head about another mile and bang a left at the second Dunkin’,’” I remember her telling me. “And I love that they called them Dunks or Dunkies and they have those little munchkins. So cute.”

Then she’d try to mimic a “Bawstin” accent and fail miserably. “Wicked smaht those munchkins,” she said.

We do love our Dunkin’, I told her. I said, at the time, that you could measure how “New Englandy” a town was by the number of Dunkins there were.

Now I think the Dunkin’ world empire, one of largest coffee shop companies with 12,900 locations, including more than 4,200 in New England, has gotten a bit too ubiquitous for its britches.

A case in point is the way developers are now suing the Holyoke Planning Board for voting down a proposed Dunkin’ across from Mount Tom State Reservation.

The lawsuit from Salmar Realty of Ludlow, along with The Log Cabin and Banquet House, claims board members, Vice Chairwoman Mimi Panitch and Rosanna Lopez, “were either arbitrary/capricious or exceeded the legal authority of the board.”

If you ask me, if anyone has a capricious need for a Dunkaccino or a French cruller that bad, there’s something wrong with you. There are two Dunkin’ drive-throughs within three miles in either direction of Mount Tom.

But there’s another reason why I cheered when I read about the Holyoke decision.

Last I checked, David Hoffman, the Dunkin’ CEO, made more than $5.4 million in total compensation last year. Other top Dunkin’ execs easily made over a million. How about less growth and more money for your front-line workers, Dave?

The average hourly wage for a Dunkin’ crew member in Massachusetts is $13.71, although the Dunkin’ closest to me is now starting at $15. $15? Go figure. In 2015, the chain’s then top executive, Nigel Travis, who was making $4,887 an hour, infamously blasted a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers as “absolutely outrageous.”

What’s actually outrageous is Dunkin’ workers working long, hard hours to serve us coffee for such little pay. Travis’ tone-deaf comments were not surprising. If the minimum wage had grown as fast as fast-food chain CEO compensation over the past few decades, it would be easily more than $100.

Dunkin’ may be independently owned and operated, but I’d much rather spend my hard-earned money feeding my caffeine addiction with one of the many and great local coffee roasters all around us, all fighting to make a living in a competitive market.

And doughnuts? I’m still mourning the loss of The Donut Man in Hadley. After its owners were forced out in 2017, Dunkin’ moved in. So now I travel over to the Glazed Doughnut Shop in Amherst or down 91 to the Donut Dip in West Springfield when I want the real thing.

My friend last summer came up for another visit to New England, this time taking the northern route through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. A combined lakes and seacoast camping kind of trip. This time, she didn’t need to get directions to find all the good places. Her smartphone did the work.

I asked her if she visited a Dunkin’ during her family travels.

Nope, she said. Her family stopped at local general stores and ate at local establishments, and they found a lot of great local coffee places, too.

“We didn’t travel up your way to go to fast food chains,” she told me. “Plus, we now have Dunkin’ down here too; nothing unique about them anymore.”

“America runs on Dunkin’” so the advertising slogan says, but at least here in the Pioneer Valley, thanks to a local planning board, we can celebrate one small cup for the little guy, one giant mug for local roasters. Now that’s wicked smaht, I say.

John Paradis, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, lives in Florence and writes a monthly column for the Gazette. He can be reached at columnists@gazettenet.com.




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