For the better part of the last week, the excitement had been building SO much for the opening of the Dunkin’ Donuts in New Hope that people would come in for their donuts, only to be turned away because the shop wasn’t open yet. So co-owner Teddy Nachmias parked a car to block the incoming driveway. Then people drove in the exit side. So they blocked that side, too.
But the people were undeterred. “They parked next door at Walgreen’s or the video store and walked through the parking lot,” Nachmias said. “When we told them that we were in training, they’d say ‘Oh, that’s why you blocked the driveways.'”
So on December 7, when, a few minutes after 5 a.m. people tried their luck and heard “Welcome to Dunkin’ how can we help you?” the excitement had bubbled over; the long awaited cultural icon that is Dunkin’ Donuts had opened in the Twin Cities at 7820 N. 42nd St.
The buzz started nearly 14 months ago when it was announced that Nachmias and partner Steve Silberfarb bought the rights to a dozen Dunkin’ Donuts franchises in Minnesota, from the metro area up to near Alexandria. Their second location is planned for Andover. Other franchise owners have territories in other parts of the metro locked up.
“I’m not sure there’s a big prize in being first,” Silberfarb said. “Franchisees all work together on training. We share marketing dollars. We all want to promote and be the best we can.
“You have to find the right location, the right people and build the right team in the right way. I’m proud of the team we’ve put together and it’s worked really, really well.”
Day 1, Silberfarb said, has exceeded all expectations.
“It’s not a (BS) answer,” he said. “Few things live up to expectations in my world. It’s been so smooth. From 5 a.m. it’s been a steady and constant flow. It hasn’t been so overwhelming that you can’t keep up. We have a brand new crew. Some have Dunkin’ experience and they’ve trained really hard. But there’s training and then there’s [serving] customers.”
Nachmias has gone through Day 1 of a restaurant before; he was the owner of Little Tel Aviv before it closed.
“It was a different size of store and it was geared more toward a certain community being a kosher restaurant,” he said. “Here it’s for everyone. The excitement that Dunkin’ is coming to Minnesota is beyond my expectations. I love Dunkin’. I’ve always loved Dunkin’. People really appreciate us here.”
At least a dozen people stop Silberfarb to congratulate him.
“I just wanted to say congrats. We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” said Amy Geller, who grew up in New Hope.
“These donuts are amazing and the coffee’s even better. My kids LOVE Dunkin’. These are for them.” Geller nods to her bag with a couple boxes in it. “I’m sharing with a lot of people.”
Even at 1 p.m., the line was robust with people streaming out of the store with their boxes of assorted donuts and trays of coffee drinks.
“[Orders have] ranged from a sandwich and a cup of coffee to five, six dozen donuts,” Silberfarb said. “People love Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s a blessing of our little adventure. We’re in the smile business. I haven’t seen anyone here without a smile. People just feel good.”
Nachmias was working deep in the kitchen getting racks of donuts in and out of the oven. Silberfarb worked the line, handing out menus and chatting with almost everyone who came through in the early rush.
“I asked every person if they’d been to Dunkin’ Donuts before. A lot had because they grew up out East, but for some it’s their first time. It literally runs the gamut.”
Silberfarb walked the floor and wiped down tables. Stopping to accept the thanks of a grateful throng of fans. After nearly 9 hours on his feet – with several more to come – his enjoyment of the day didn’t wane. And it started well before the 5 a.m. opening.
A crew that included eight bakers had baked 450 dozen donuts (we’ll do the math for you: 5,400 donuts).
“Every surface of the restaurant had racks of donuts. Some were glazed and drying, some were waiting to be filled,” Silberfarb said. Then people were going to want the assorted. “We made maybe 100 dozen assorted boxes. Me, Teddy and couple bakers, we went bin by bin, one type of donut in each. One-hundred dozen of those.”
He looks around. There are almost none left.
The friendship of Nachmias and Silberfarb goes back nearly 18 years, when Silberfarb moved to Minneapolis and he became the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council from 1999-2006. Silberfarb had been the executive director of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation from 2010-14. In that role, the two did business together with Nachmias catering events due to a lack of Kosher establishments at that time. After leaving Federation, Silberfarb said that being part of a business was something he wanted to add to his portfolio.
“I wasn’t looking for food, or retail or a franchise, but Teddy wanted to talk about [Dunkin’],” said Silberfarb, who initially dismissed the Dunkin’ idea. “We did a lot of due diligence, talking with Dunkin’ and franchisees. We loved the product and the process and the systems. And what would be available to us where we wouldn’t have to reinvent (anything). We found an operations director and the three of us have great chemistry.
The family emphasis means that when one of them has to shuttle one of their kids to some extra-curricular activity, it can get done with no issue. That was an important point to all of them.
“You’ve gotta like who you’re working with and the product you’re selling. My kids LOVE Dunkin’,” Silberfarb said. “For me and I think Teddy too, it’s a smiles business. It was that element of wanting people to be happy.”
Dunkin’ Donuts is open from 5 a.m.-9 p.m.; the drive-thru is open until 10 p.m.