Saunders

Doughnut forsake me, darlin'

Staff WriterMarch 10, 2009 

Come on back over here, you sweet, brown, sexy thang. You know Big Daddy can't stay mad at you. Welcome home.

Naw, you didn't catch me writing a pleading love letter to Sweet Thang. This love missive is to glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts to let them know that we will welcome the company back even though it treated North Carolinians like baldheaded, snaggle-toothed stepchildren in the 1990s.

Remember when KKD stock was flying as high as $50 a share and doughnuts were flying off the shelves in New York, Seattle, Las Vegas and just about everywhere else?

Shares now are valued at $1.13, and some financial forecasters predict that the company may go the way of nickel candy, Tin Pan Alley and Circuit City by the end of the year.

Either out of desperation or a realization of who its real friends are, the company plans to open more stores in the South, where "fried" is one of the four essential food groups.

So that's what it took, huh? For the rest of the country to turn its carbohydrate-counting back on Krispy Kreme?

No matter. We don't hold grudges around here, but we will say, "We told you so."

Brian Little, KKD's director of corporate communications, warmed my heart like a doughnut straight off the conveyor belt when he said Monday, "We're actively looking for suitable locations in North Carolina. ... The Triangle is one of the areas we're looking at."

That's good. As far back as 2000, when Krispy Kreme went public and became an immediate sensation on the Nasdaq exchange, I told the company's executives that they'd be back, even as I blasted them for "neglecting their permanent, lard-butted fan base: people like me."

What the company thought was true love was really just an infatuation, yet it caused KKD to expand everywhere but here, the land of the ever-expanding waistline. How long did they think the hip, beautiful people in New York, Burbank and London were going to keep their dough rolling and them rolling in it?

Didn't you feel that even when the sophisticates in Manhattan and London were singing odes to doughnuts and eating them by the millions that they were engaged in the gustatory equivalent of slumming -- like rich people who, for instance, feign an affinity for chitlins as a way to show they're jes' reg'lar folks?

Of course, if one eats enough chitlins, being regular won't be a problem.

Even though Little said, "we plan to continue our measured growth nationally and internationally," I feel that KKD -- as we will after eating a dozen hot ones -- got too big for its britches.

He disagreed. "There are conceivably a lot of reasons for the difficulties we experienced. ... Today, we're focused on strategic initiatives to turn the company around.

"We are in the process of opening a store in Smyrna, Tenn." -- ummm, doughnuts and whiskey -- "and in our company's heartland, which is North Carolina."

Now that's what I'm talking about. Call me xenophobic, but it should not be easier for Prince Charles to get a dozen hot 'uns than it is for working folk in Johnston County or Durham, both of whom have to drive to Raleigh.

With Krispy Kreme returning to its roots, how long do you suspect it'll be before NASCAR does the same?

barry.saunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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