A Dunkin’ is opening in Moundsville, WV, in May, offering its corporate branded array of donuts and coffees (The company, which has been slowing disassociating itself from donuts, says it is a “long-running chain serving signature breakfast items & a variety of coffee drinks”) and challenging the existence of a beloved locally-owned institution: Quality Bake Shoppe.
Bill Henthorn, who owns and operates Quality Bake (featured in our PBS film Moundsville) with his wife Angel, is confident Quality will endure. “This bakery has survived Sun Donuts, and Tim Horton’s, and it’ll survive Dunkin’,” he said.
Dunkin’, which operates over 12,000 restaurants, was recently sold for $8.8 billion.
For the town, a corporate chain is a symbol of legitimacy, another tax-payer, and a reliable landlord. And residents like having options. “What we hear the most of is restaurants, restaurants, restaurants,” city manager Rick Healy told WTRF. “People want eating places. So, we’re happy to see them come in and be part of the Moundsville community.”
Henthorn is a former PPG chemical factory worker, baptist preacher from New Martinsville, and father of four. He and Angel bought Quality Bake in 2013. He said the bakery is innovating to compete with Dunkin’, setting up a new menu of coffee drinks. “We’ve been doing plain coffee for about a week, and we’ll start doing frozen drinks and smoothies today,” he said. An espresso machine is being delivered.
(If you enjoy this article and others on moundsville.org, please consider making a small donation via our donation box. All the content on this site is published and maintained for free.)
The standoff represents the battle between corporate chains that try to take over every small-town business they can, from coffee to stationary, and locally-owned businesses that offer a more human, friendly face, and, most importantly, keep profits derived from selling basic goods in the community where they can be recycled, instead of sending them to disappear into quarterly earnings and the bank accounts of shareholders all over the world.
And the battle is not a question of ideology. Both Dunkin’ and Quality Bake are capitalist enterprises, seeking to turn a profit. But as a corporation worth billions, Dunkin’ is seeking to maximize profits, even if that means paying people under $15 an hour and freezing and shipping donuts instead of making them fresh. Quality Bake has other goals, including keeping the Moundsville community vibrant, helping its employees live better lives, and selling tasty fresh donuts.
As I reported recently in the Daily Yonder in a story on a Moundsville shoe store called Ruttenberg’s, there is a recipe for beating the corporate giants: Knowing your customers, and offering higher-quality goods you can charge more for.
“Our donuts aren’t frozen,” Henthorn pointed out on a recent visit. Every night at 10pm, a small team gets to work rolling flour, butter and sugar into a 1,200 donuts a day. And I witnessed one of his employees consoling a woman who’d walked in carrying a heavy burden. The two women cried together and hugged.
Quality also makes cheesecakes, cookies and fruit pies. It also bakes French bread for restaurants. Angel is a baker who sometimes works 20 hours a day in the bakery, and all four of their kids help out.
One big fan is former mayor Gene Saunders, who talks about Quality Bake in the clip above. “I’m gonna tell you gentlemen where you can get the best donuts in the country,” he says in the film. “You get their donuts when they come out of the oven. There ain’t nothing better in this world than a donut that come out of the oven. That is the awesome donut. Glazed donut. Gotta go glazed.”
The Dunkin’ public relation department did not reply to an email requesting comment about its new Moundsville store and Quality Bake.
John W. Miller