To paraphrase Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, when you spend time in a new city, it's not the huge differences that leave the biggest impact. It's the little things. Walking into a European theater and ordering a glass of beer, or heading into a Parisian McDonald's and ordering a "Royale with Cheese." Same thing goes for moving across the country.
When I first left Chicago to move to L.A., it wasn't the huge differences that made it feel a little strange. It was the small ones. It was the fact that it took time to find a quality pizza, and that taco trucks were everywhere. But one of the tougher things for me to get over was the fact that Dunkin' Donuts wasn't available.
Rejoice! That reality is no longer. Dunkin' Donuts is back in California.
Well, that's not entirely true. Dunkin' Donuts has existed in California for the past few decades, but only at three weird locations: A marine base in Oceanside, an Embassy Suites hotel in downtown San Diego, and a rest stop in Barstow. Great for folks in those areas, but pretty inconvenient for L.A. residents looking for a quick coffee and donut fix.
That changed on Tuesday when Dunkin' Donuts officially began their assault on the West Coast by opening a store in Modesto. This will be followed by the opening of a store in Santa Monica in a few weeks, and stores in Long Beach, Downey, and Whittier by the end of the year. In all, the plan calls for at least another 200 stores in the state by 2020.
This isn't the first time they've tried to expand to the West Coast. Back in the early 2000s, Dunkin' Donuts opened a handful of stores in California, before quickly closing them down. Why? They gave reasons like "logistics" and that their franchisee partners didn't have the same goals as the parent company. In reality, the reason probably had more to do with the fact that the Starbucks logo completely dominated the landscape.
But there's another reason that Team Dunkin' has stayed away from L.A. for so long: Indie donut shops.
Los Angeles is the land of mom-and-pop donut shops. Besides old classics like Stan's Donuts in Westwood and the iconic Randy's Donuts, just about every strip mall you pass has a donut shop inside. They've weathered the storm of the ridiculous expansion of Starbucks, and they'll survive this new attack from Dunkin' Donuts. (A not-so-secret reason for their sustained success: Besides donuts and coffee, they sell cigarettes and lottery tickets.) So, does L.A. have room for another source for sugar-infused fried dough? Will the Dunkin' expansion stick around for good this time around?
The answer will come down to how Angelenos feel about Dunkin' coffee, which is the chain's secret weapon. They've heard the tales from their pals on the East Coast and in the Midwest, and now they'll finally get a chance to see if it lives up to the hype.
Personally, I like the coffee just fine. It's not perfect, it's not terrible. It's not going to change your life. It's soft and smooth, and has an extra kick of caffeine that will put some pep in your step. But the hype that's been built up around it is more the result of it not being readily available than its quality. (Kind of like how a cult movie that's tough to find has an extra aura of greatness.) When L.A. residents get their first sip, will they shift the money they've been spending at Starbucks or mom-and-pop joints into the cash registers at Dunkin' Donuts?
The jury is still out. But it's certainly not -- and please, pardon me for this -- a slam dunk(in').
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