This week’s Boston Phoenix cover article “Choosing Our Religion” is a fun historical and sociological analysis of Boston’s favorite chain Dunkin’ Donuts. The franchise dominates New England so much so that it is frequently cited in directions: “Take a left at the first Dunkin’ Donuts, pass through the rotary, and then at the second Dunkin’ Donuts take a right, but not a hahd right!”
“Good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub,” mused Leopold Bloom in Ulysses. A better one would be to traverse the Hub without passing a Dunkin’ Donuts. There are 269 Dunkin’ stores or kiosks within a 15 mile radius of Boston proper. Indeed, it often seems there’s one on every other corner. Across New England, there are nearly 2000 Dunkin’ outlets: that’s one for about every 6000 people.
I grew up with Dunkin’ Donuts. No school, church, or community gathering occurred without a box of Munchkins. My friends in high school referred to the Dunkin’ Donuts on the Post Road in Greenwich as Headquarters. Sadly, now that the doughnuts are baked offsite they are often stale and tasteless compared to the fresh yumminess in their “Time to Make the Doughnuts” days. Of course, it’s not about the doughnuts, it’s about coffee, and thus Dunkin’ Donuts finds themselves in a battle for brand loyalty and identity politics with Starbucks.
Fair or not, these are the stereotypes. Starbucks is fancy, indulgent, haute-bourgeois. Dunkin’ is simple, unpretentious, to the point. One encourages lounging and relaxation, one encourages getting in, getting out, and getting on with your day. Look deeper, and it’s fascinating how these conventions play out.
I have to say I’ve never heard Dunkin’ Donuts referred to as Dunkies. If the name’s shortened people call it Dunkin’s or less commonly (but my preference) DuDos. Also the article makes no mention of Dunkin’ Donuts acquisition by the evil Carlyle Group. Oh and don’t ever, ever order a Dunkaccino®, it is a foul, sickly-sweet concoction.