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It’s en route: The new Dunkin’ in the Oyster River Shopping Center is set to open on Thursday, Aug. 1. (Photo by Aviva Luria/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
For some, the words “next generation” may conjure images of the USS Enterprise. But Dunkin’ Donuts—which has rebranded itself as Dunkin’— is rolling out next-gen stores, and one is nearing take-off in Old Saybrook.
Dunkin’s latest incarnation, which will open Thursday, Aug. 1, is located at 923 Boston Post Road, in the Oyster River Shopping Center, where there will also an Agway. The parking lot, left cracked and stained when the bowling alley closed, has been repaved for both businesses, with a designated drive-through lane for Dunkin’.
The drive-through “is huge in this town because we don’t really have any drive-throughs,” said Laura Soule, who owns the franchise with her parents, Randy and Leona Rianhard. “And it took us years to get it zoned for that.”
The three own the two other Old Saybrook Dunkin’s, but will close the store at 744 Boston Post Road, between Pond Road and Elm Street, on July 28. The store at 1635 Boston Post Road, at the corner of Spencer Plains Road, will remain open.
“The only other place in town with a drive-through that serves coffee is McDonald’s,” Soule said. “That’s it.”
While drive-through service is largely seen as a convenience, it’s more than that for those for whom getting out of the car is difficult.
“I have a young baby, so I don’t want to slug him out in the car seat,” Soule said.
A drive-through is “so much easier. Or if you’re disabled and you can’t get out of the car—it’s really going to help people.”
Recent downpours, as well as inevitable winter storms, also make the drive-through an attractive service.
The store’s interior will be “very modern, high technology—everything is different about it compared to the old Dunkin’s,” said Soule.
“We have an eight-system tap for beverages. It’s going to be like a beer tap—you’re going to get all your iced beverages right through that. It’s going to be more of an experience, kind of like a smaller, café-type feel. So that’s our biggest thing and that’s going to feature Nitro, which is cold brew infused with nitrogen.”
There will also be regular cold brew, iced tea, and iced coffees, she said.
The tap system will be a permanent fixture, Soule said, as iced coffee is no longer a summer thing, especially for the younger set.
“I drink iced coffee all year round,” she said.
Despite the truncated name, donuts are most definitely not being phased out, Soule said. In fact, donuts will be displayed in glass bakery cases that are an extension of the front counter, rather than in racks behind the counter, as in traditional Dunkin’ Donuts stores.
“Donuts are huge right now,” she said.
The Old Saybrook Dunkin’s are “part of a kitchen in South Windsor and every morning they bring the donuts to us. We frost them, sprinkle them, [and fill them], but we don’t have actual deep fryers here,” Soule explained. “But we bake all of our own muffins here, our own bagels, croissants. They’re all baked here on the premises.”
Efficiency is clearly a next gen priority. Despite the airy, more welcoming feel of the place, it’s designed to get customers in and out as quickly as possible. And in keeping with the new-technology ethos, there will be a self-ordering interactive kiosk, where customers who are undecided about what to order will be taken through suggestions. This should help to shorten the line at the register, Soule said.
“Eleven percent of our customers use their phones for on-the-go orders, which allows them to prepay, order, and skip the line inside the store,” she said by email. “The kiosk will be another option for our guests.”
Soule wants residents to know that while Dunkin’ may be a big, national company, franchisees are locals.
“I live right down the street. My husband grew up here. My parents live in Westbrook...So we’re very local,” she said.
“My kid will go to school here, and I go to the gym here,” she continued. “We’re very involved in the community—my husband’s a fireman. It’s more of a small business than people think.”
Old Saybrook’s Next Gen Dunkin’ will host a grand opening on Saturday, Aug. 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. featuring live music, samples, and giveaways. The Connecticut Cancer Society, which is headquartered in Old Saybrook, will participate in the ribbon cutting.