Raleigh's oldest Dunkin' Donuts closes for good

kbettis@newsobserver.comJune 30, 2014 

— For 47 years, Joyce and Groover Blitch have made fresh doughnuts and built a community at the Dunkin’ Donuts at 1801 Capital Blvd.

They retired at noon Monday, along with their shop.

The Blitches, both 75, brought Massachusetts-based Dunkin’ Donuts to North Carolina as store No. 454 in 1967. They opened two more on South Wilmington Street and at the Crabtree Valley Mall, though they no longer operate them.

The couple has been married for 52 years. Since they opened their first Dunkin’ Donuts, they’ve served doughnuts and coffee every day that they were in town.

“We’ve worked together for 47 years, but I’m not sure we can live together,” said Joyce Blitch. “My husband swears he’s getting a job.”

Groover Blitch watched the last batch of warm doughnuts dwindle under the steady stream of customers late Monday morning, as Joyce Blitch scurried over to warmly greet customers on her last day at work.

Few customers raced out the door after their order. Most came to sit with the Blitches for a few more minutes, or to enjoy a doughnut on some of the last remaining coffee-shop barstools. Many gave their well-wishes with hugs and handshakes.

“We’ve seen children come in, and now we’re seeing their children,” Joyce Blitch said.

The Blitches’ own three children grew up working at the store, their son cutting doughnuts starting at age 11.

The couple decided it was time to retire when the franchise agreement ran out last December. To renew the agreement, they would have had to modernize and expand the store, something they didn’t have the money or the space to do.

The store is in the floodplain of Crabtree Creek, and the city of Raleigh will likely turn the lot into a green space or park.

Groover Blitch first sold doughnuts as a senior at The Citadel military college in Charleston, S.C., filling a typewriter case with Krispy Kreme treats. When he came to Durham to work as an engineer, he decided to try franchising instead of sitting behind a desk.

Since he could not find a good cup of coffee in the area, he decided to open a Dunkin’ Donuts, which were new as a franchise. The menu was simple – just doughnuts and coffee. The store opened before muffins, bagels or even Munchkins were added to the menu.

Joyce Blitch says that they have met many people as employees and customers.

“We don’t know all of their names, but we know when they hit the door what kind of coffee they want,” she said. “We consider them our friends.”

Without the store to run, the Blitches plan to spend more time with church activities and with their four grandchildren.

Eleven people lost their jobs when the store closed Monday, including Barbara Woolard of Raleigh, who has worked with the Blitches for 34 years. Originally from Reading, Mass., she moved to North Carolina while in the Marine Corps. Teary-eyed, she remembered faithful customers, including one who introduced her to her former husband.

Sitting on barstools and sipping large coffees, Larry Blanchard of Raleigh and his son, Doug Blanchard of Wake Forest, said they appreciated the nostalgic mom-and-pop feel of the shop.

“It’s unfortunate that this style is changing,” said Larry Blanchard. “It’s personalized. They talk to you.”

Bettis: 919-829-8955; Twitter: @whatakaracter

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