Life is full of mysteries. Scientific analysis can bring us back to the Big Bang, but what about before that? How does the brain make us feel love? How can it possible be that the star of "Kindergarten Cop" was elected governor of California? But, one of the most pressing local mysteries we have had for awhile now is why Dunkin' Donuts, the coffee-and-donut giant with over 6,700 store locations scattered through 30 countries around the world, does not have a single store in California?
(First off, factually speaking there is a single store in California. You just have to be a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton to use it.)
Scour the Internet queries of people trying to locate solutions to this mystery and you'll be sent to numerous theories linking the success of Krispy Kreme to Dunkin's hesitancy to expand, pithy responses like "they went bankrupt from the cops not coming when people like me kept picking on them about donuts", and rumblings about a vast Cambodian donut shop conspiracy keeping them from planting their roots in SoCal. Well, folks. Sometimes there are no answers. While the mystery of just what was going on inside the brain trust of Dunkin' Donuts may never be satisfactorily explained, the question itself is about to become moot:
News was released last week that the company is looking to open franchises in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino, Ventura and Orange counties. Unless some unforeseen circumstances start popping up (say, a donut shop lobbyist pressing some congressional flesh to put up a few roadblocks) you can expect Dunkin' Donuts to be in the neighborhood by 2015.
"So, what's the big deal?" you may wonder. "I have dozens of mom-and-pop donut shops and hundreds of Starbucks within spitting distance. Why should I care about this?" And that lack of excitement makes sense. Fair enough. But, as a born-and-raised Chicagoan who was coddled from the womb on a steady stream of coffee and Boston Creme donuts, it is my duty to inform you:
Dunkin' Donuts coming to L.A. is a big deal.
To be frank, it's not about the donuts. Despite Fred the Baker's relentless passion to make 'em, the reason people have fallen in love with Dunkin' is not because of their variously sugared pieces of dough. (You can get those virtually anywhere in L.A.) It's because of their signature item: their coffee. When the ad campaigns say "America runs on Dunkin'," they mean the oodles of caffeine coming from their cups of joe.
But if you haven't yet tasted their brew, when you first let it saturate your taste buds you may be left wanting more. As opposed to the Starbucks you've been inhaling every morning for the past decade, the Dunkin' Donuts brand is a little less in-your-face. It's not a bitter sting in your mouth, or a hodgepodge of dynamic flavors. You see, the reason Dunkin' Donuts coffee is so beloved, why every transplant into L.A. from cities in the East and Midwest are constantly scanning street corners for that orange and pink logo, isn't because of the potency of the brew's flavor. It's almost because of the lack of flavor.
Right now there's two options for coffee. You can throw down a five-spot and get a dark brew or French roast at a posh boutique, or you can spend a buck at your local 7-11 or mom-and-pop shop and get something watered-down and probably-burned. There's no in-between. (The closest possibility is actually the coffee offerings from McDonald's, but there's a lot of self-induced shame that comes with walking through those golden arched-doors, so people generally leave that alone.) To use an alcohol comparison, in a world of IPAs and dirt cheap 24-packs of Milwaukee's Best, there's been no quality lager to drink. But the entrance of Dunkin' Donuts into California will change that.