A confectionary conflict could be brewing after the opening of a second doughnut store at a popular north Forsyth intersection.
Last week, Dunkin’ Donuts opened a new location near the intersection of Hwys. 369 and 306, better known as Hammond’s Crossing.
Some in the community voiced concerns over the store’s location, which is near - and shares an entrance with - Donut Connection, another doughnut store that been in business for 11 years.
“I know it’s similar, but Dunkin’ Donuts is a brand and it’s a nationally recognized brand,” Dan Sosnowski, director of operations at the new Dunkin’ Donuts location. “It brings in a good bit of people because of that, but I haven’t seen anything negative being next door to [another] doughnut shop.”
Sosnowski said the only negativity toward the store had been online and trying to frame a locally-owned business versus a corporation.
He said the problem with that view was the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise’s owners live in nearby Milton and operated more than 30 stores in the area.
“Public reaction has been fantastic, no negative feedback from anyone,” Sosnowski said. “I saw some [social media] things that people didn’t realize we were locally owned, so of course they were making the comments of ‘support your local businesses,’ but we are a local business, so it hasn’t impacted us.”
Donut Connection’s owner, Kirk McConnell, is no stranger to Dunkin’ Donuts as he was a franchisee for 15 years and spent more than 30 years with the company. He said the business model is different for both stores.
“I have more of a neighborhood environment,” he said. “When you go into a grocery store you can buy a flank steak, a ribeye or a filet. My product is a lot more expensive for me to buy, and all bakery items are the same way. You have those choices. They’re not selling the filet, because they’re selling massive amounts. I wouldn’t survive if I sold what they sold.”
McConnell said he owns the building -- which is also home to his other business, Coal Mountain Builders -- so it wasn’t like he was going to move, but still he won’t deny he was worried when the larger company announced they would be moving in.
“Initially I thought they were going to put me out of business, but after I saw the public reaction of my customers I knew they weren’t going to,” he said. “My sales have been affected, but very minimally. I expected it to be a lot more; I did, being realistic. But all my regular customers … they’re still coming through the door.”
Last week, the sign at Donut Connection - which is also a part of a larger company with McConnell as the local owner - said “The Battle Begins, Buy Local,” and McConnell said he even had to limit the actions of his more zealous customers.
“I’ve had a lot of customers upset. I’ve had customers [go] as far as [saying] they’re going to boycott out front, and I told them, no they can’t do that.”
While some customers may have felt the opening of the new store was to hurt Donut Connection, Sosnowski said it was not a factor in the company’s decision.
“That really didn’t go into the conversation, to be honest,” he said. “We choose [locations] based on … it could be demographics, traffic patterns or anything … it’s a perfect location for us.”
Of course, any business comes down to the consumer, and both sides have supporters.
“Probably at least two or three times a week I come here,” said Sam Lockwood, a regular customer at Donut Connection. “[It’s] just the service. I like supporting little mom-and-pop businesses and things like that."
Jan Hayes, who was at Dunkin’ Donuts on Tuesday morning, said her daughter worked at the store, but was excited for more than just family reasons.
“I think it’s awesome. I’m glad they finally got one in this area near the house so you don’t have to go to Cumming all the time,” she said. “I [plan to] come back all the time, even if family wasn’t here.”
As each store has dedicated customers and neither plans to leave, it appears coexistence is the only option.
“My hope is to continue this,” Sosnowski said laughing. “We’re going to get this store involved in all our local community affairs.”
“I hope we both do well,” McConnell said. “I want them to be successful and I know they have a large investment. I know that I’m going to be successful … I don’t wish them any ill will.”