When officials mark the opening of the new and enlarged Marine Corps Exchange at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in early May, they might want to brace for an unusual crowd: Dunkin’ Donuts lovers.
We’re talking coffee and donuts, and muffins and bagels, too.
Dunkin’ Donuts, a Massachusetts-based company, has more than 7,000 restaurants across the country, in 36 states plus the District of Columbia, and there’s even seven overseas. But there’s not a single one in California, a huge state where Starbucks and McDonalds are a dime a dozen. But come May, the state’s first Dunkin’ Donuts eatery will open inside the new MCX.
It’s been more than a decade since the company shuttered its few California shops, putting the nearest Boston Kreme, Powered Cocoa and Spiced Apple donuts in the far reaches across the border – no, not Mexico, although it might as well be – in Nevada and Arizona. Why they did that is just mind-boggling, even in a state that screams healthy and fit but gorges on In-N-Out burgers and burritos.
That gap in time has been agony for throngs of fans, East Coasters mostly, relegated to reminiscing about Dunkin’s Hazelnut coffee and Salt bagels and waiting for the day to travel back East, where a trip to the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts is a required pilgrimage.
But with the new Camp Pendleton store, the 64,000 people who work or live at the base will be the lucky ones able to get their coffee and donut fix daily. At least that’s what the corporate data keepers expect. “We are honored and excited about the opportunity to serve the 64,000 people who live, work and train at the military base and look forward to keeping the Marines running on Dunkin’ with our coffee and snacks,” the Dunkin’ Brands public relations manager, McCall Gosselin, said in a response to questions, picking up the company’s motto of “America runs on Dunkin’.”
Running they will be. At a base with quite a few transplanted East Coasters – including the base commander – and Southerners more familiar with the brand’s sweets, the official grand opening set to run from May 3 to May 6 just might become more of a swarm. A big one. It won’t just be base workers and residents who can access the store, not far from the main gate and Interstate 5, but thousands of military retirees in the region, which itself has a sizeable population.
“This will be off the charts,” predicted Brig. Gen. Vincent Coglianese, the Marine Corps Installations-West commander. The New Jersey native knows: He described his wife as a big Dunkin’ fan. And a recent interview veered off into warm memories of hot coffee and tasty pastries, and anticipation of the “VIP” opening on May 2.
Coglianese expects to see as big a reception to Camp Pendleton’s Dunkin’ Donuts as the Marine Corps has seen at the Camp Lejeune, N.C., store, which reportedly had more business than the Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants outside the base in Jacksonville. The company rep wouldn’t confirm but said there are 25 other Dunkin’ Donuts at U.S. military bases, and service members apparently don’t shy away from its goodies. “The military population is a great audience for us and we are actively looking to develop new Dunkin’ Donuts locations on other military bases,” Gosselin said.
The company’s original announcement that the Camp Pendleton location will be the only site in California had left die-hard Dunkin’ Donuts fans out West thinking: Are they hazelnuts?
But how soon new sites would open isn’t clear. “It will be some time before we consider expanding into California,” said Gosselin. “We recognize there is high demand for Dunkin’ Donuts on the West Coast, as evidenced by the fact that California is the #1 state for sales of our bagged grocery coffee. However, Dunkin’ Donuts is moving westward with focus on disciplined development in contiguous markets that are adjacent to our existing base in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic areas. We will enter the market once our infrastructure is established to meet the demands of our guests.”
Fans anticipate the reaction at Camp Pendleton will be hot. But if the it turns out to be more lukewarm, well, that means there’s just more coffee and donuts for the rest of us.