Long Live Dunkin’ Donuts

The shuttered Dunkin’ Donuts at Clark & Belmont

A sad night. You can’t even tell it was a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you recognize the partial “steaming coffee cup” logo.

One Wednesday night in mid-July, Al and i were walking along our usual Outreach routes. On Halsted, we passed a trio of glamorous cross-dresser-performers. We slowed our pace farther down the street to hear how karaoke night was going (pretty well!). At another corner, we paused to wonder what was behind the paper blocking the windows of a “Coming soon!” establishment.

Everything seemed normal as we headed toward the El station. Which is to say, a little wild with a side of crazy—nothing you wouldn’t expect from any party-bar scene.

Then we saw it. I can’t remember who clutched whose hand, but our eyes widened, our feet froze, and a shared cry of “Noooooooo!!” escaped our lips. Then we rushed across the street.

Dunkin’ Donuts was closed. Signage gone, lights out, fixtures gone. Shuttered.

Truthfully, Dunkin’ Donuts was not that hospitable—before we’d even get there, they’d shove their tables and chairs in front of the restroom, making it all inaccessible—but the guy behind the counter was nice, and in the winter he didn’t mind us standing around, stomping the cold out of our feet and wrapping our stiff fingers around cups of hot cocoa. Eventually, after bagging our order, he would smile and point out additional doughnuts. “Like this one?” We started getting regular bonus doughnuts.

The anticipation of one fewer winter warming center was tough, but not having the chance to say goodbye to our Dunkin’ Donuts friend was bitterer than their darkest roast. (Hah! See what i did there?)

Then we saw the sign that said, “Visit us at our new location!” We double-timed it down the street to the new address, only to see that it was just a walk-up kiosk under the El tracks. A young guy we’d never seen before was behind the window. We were deflated. More deflated than a cruller that has…oh, never mind.

The next couple of weeks of Outreach were somber every time we hit that corner.

Two weeks ago, Al and i were walking past the new bright and shiny Dunkin’ Donuts kiosk, and we thought we spotted a familiar face. We stopped and peered in, and sure enough, it was our Outreach night Dunkin’ Donuts friend! He smiled and waved, and we had a little catch-up conversation through the window. He grabbed a bag and started pointing out doughnuts we might be interested in. In the end, we ordered a plain glazed and three munchkins, but walked away with two doughnuts and over a dozen munchkins. For $1.18.

In the winter, we may again curse the shuttering of the full-service store, but at least the warmth of that friendship, limited as it is, remains.

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