They're hot and they're here Doughnuts: Krispy Kreme, the heralded doughnut chain from the South, opens its first Maryland LTC store. Customers give it sweet reviews.

November 04, 1998|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

Hot Doughnuts Now!

The red and green neon sign that signals when fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts are rolling off the conveyor belt flashed on for the first time in Maryland yesterday at the insane hour of 5: 30 a.m., and hundreds heeded the call.

The scent -- and reputation -- of glazed doughnuts wafted around the stretch of Belair Road in Fullerton and around the beltway, drawing in doughnut-lovers and causing pre-dawn gridlock in the parking lot and the drive-through lane.

"These are worth it," said Marlene Fraser, the first customer of the inaugural Krispy Kreme doughnut shop in Maryland. "They melt in your mouth, especially when they are hot."

The Towson resident ended her workday at the Mass Transit Administration depot in Highlandtown and headed straight for Krispy Kreme. She waited outside in her van for about 1 1/2 hours until the store lights came on.

Other devout Krispy Kreme fans joined her, making it a full house soon after the doors were unlocked.

Until recently, only those who lived or traveled through the South knew the pleasures of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, which was established in 1937. Its cult following increased dramatically as the privately held, Winston-Salem, N.C., company began offering franchises in 1995.

The Belair Road shop is owned by Krispy Kreme Doughnuts of Maryland LLC, a partnership of Gary Edwards and Harry G. Pappas Jr., who are both Burger King franchisees, and Heritage Properties, a development company.

Krispy Kreme franchises cost about $1 million to start up. About 35 have opened in the past three years.

The partnership has exclusive rights to develop shops in Maryland and must develop nine more within four years. The next shop -- most likely along the York Road corridor -- could open in March. The company will then expand to Ritchie #F Highway and Security Boulevard, and to outlying areas such as Salisbury and Cecil County, Edwards said.

Before the Belair Road shop opened, the closest Krispy Kreme outlets were in Wilmington, Del., and Alexandria, Va.

With 135 shops in 20 states, Krispy Kreme sells 3 million doughnuts a day and more than 1.3 billion a year. The most famous flavor is the original glazed. Chocolate iced creme-filled is the runner-up, but there are 13 other varieties -- from crullers to doughnuts filled with lemon and custard.

Yesterday, customers sat around tables in the shop eating doughnuts and greeting daylight. Some swapped trivia, such as: It takes seven seconds -- not six or eight -- in a

microwave to get the doughnut to taste like it just emerged from the vat of oil.

In its first 90 minutes of business, the shop served 161 customers, Edwards said.

Elizabeth Burchett of Perry Hall, a transplant from the South, came across the Krispy Kreme World Wide Web site on the Internet and kept checking to see when it was going to open on Belair Road.

"It's pretty disgusting to get this excited about doughnuts," she said.

"I know this is a bad thing, but I can eat six in one sitting," the petite woman added, drawing shocked stares from others in line. Each doughnut has about 10 grams of fat and 170 calories.

The competition

The Dunkin' Donuts shop 1 1/2 blocks away also had a line. But some of the customers were in the area for Krispy Kreme but didn't want to deal with the gridlocked parking lot.

"We drove by and thought about stopping, but it was just too crowded," said Stephanie Cipko, an ambulance driver for a private company who stopped at Krispy Kreme's competitor for a break with her partner, Ed Sittler.

The Dunkin' Donuts chain dwarfs Krispy Kreme. The company has 1,764 stores in North America and 14 countries. A dozen of Dunkin's doughnuts costs $4.19; a dozen of original glazed Krispy Kremes costs $3.99, and an assorted box costs $4.19.

Ray Almsteadt, 23, and Ryan Blankenship, 16, are fans who won't be swayed from Krispy Kreme. Almsteadt, who attended college in Mississippi, used to drive to Delaware to buy the doughnuts with his cousin Ryan.

Yesterday, they arrived at the new shop at 5: 25 a.m. and stood around and watched the doughnuts being made in big, silver contraptions -- which can make 3,240 doughnuts an hour -- through a huge window separating the restaurant from the back of the shop.

A perfect batch of doughnuts requires precision in time, temperature and weight, said Joe Hodges, Krispy Kreme's director of operations, and a second-generation Krispy Kreme man.

His father is a retired executive. One of his brothers owns franchises in North Carolina, and another is senior vice president of Krispy Kreme Corp.

Hodges met his wife, Mary Beth, while she was working in Krispy Kreme's franchise division at its corporate office.

The process

To make a batch of doughnuts, one needs 25 pounds of dough, which is the secret Krispy Kreme mix that's shipped from the company's headquarters. It was developed in New Orleans in 1937 by a French chef. The dough is mixed with yeast, water and a special brew to give it flavor.

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