Display racks, ovens, coolers and other interior fixtures are already in place at the new Dunkin Donuts location which is tentatively scheduled to open in mid-August at 309 W. Oglethorpe Boulevard in downtown Albany. (Staff photo: Brad McEwen)
ALBANY — Not only are the owners of the new Dunkin Donuts location in downtown Albany excited about the restaurant’s imminent August opening, they are also excited about becoming long-term members of the Albany community.
It was announced in mid-May that the national restaurant franchise had agreed to a multi-year lease agreement with Homerun Foods that would allow the company to operate out of space next to the Homerun Foods location at 309 W. Oglethorpe Boulevard.
Renovations to the location that will allow the franchise to occupy the space began in earnest last month and since that time both residents of Albany and the store’s owners have been anxiously awaiting its opening.
Sunil Rajan, who is part owner of Rajan Restaurant Partners, which owns franchise rights for Dunkin Donuts across south Georgia and northern Florida, said he and his partner Mark Weber have been looking to locate in Albany for over two years and are pleased to finally be doing so.
The restaurant group owns Dunkin Donuts locations in Columbus, Valdosta, Waycross, Brunswick, Tallahasee, Fla and little towns in between and Rajan thinks Albany is a perfect location in which Dunkin can thrive.
“Albany is a great city and we think it’s the kind of place where Dunkin can do well,” said Rajan. “The people here are great to work with. I’ve worked with other cities that talk the talk, but so far here they’ve delivered from what I can see.”
Rajan said that he and Weber had been looking at moving into Albany for the past few years and things really started to move forward when they connected with Jeff Lanier, vice president and owner of Brad Lanier Oil Company, which owns Homerun Foods.
“Jeff has been a really good partner,” Rajan said. “We’ve enjoyed working with him. It has been one of those partnership intersections that just made all the sense in the world.”
According to Rajan the group has spent the past two years looking at various sites in Albany with Lanier, trying to find the best location. He said typically when they come into a new community they try to “make a splash” and open a larger location, often a free standing spot or large end cap in a strip of stores.
When they were unable to settle on that type of location, Rajan and Weber took another look at the spot on Oglethorpe that Lanier had shown them first and decided it was actually an ideal spot for them to get into the market.
“It’s going to be a little on the small side, but the location is perfect,” Rajan said. “We really think it’s a great location.”
To demonstrate the restaurant company’s commitment to Albany Rajan said the company signed a long term lease and said the company rarely locates to a place with short term plans in mind.
He said they also plan on joining the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and have a policy of encouraging their management staff to get involved in the communities where they live and work.
“We believe in being part of the community,” Rajan said. “Dunkin is small town. We join Chambers and we get involved. We want to see our logo on little league jerseys and that kind of thing. We’re churches and schools.”
Rajan said he and Weber are also already looking at future sites in Albany in which to expand as he believes Albany is large enough to support multiple Dunkin Donuts locations.
“This is a two to three store market,” Rajan said. “We’re looking at other locations. Right now this store is our main priority, but we definitely want to grow here.”
As excited as he is about the Albany location Rajan said he’s equally excited about the people of Albany getting to enjoy Dunkin Donuts products.
Citing the restaurant’s popular doughnuts, sandwiches and coffee, Rajan said he has no doubt Albany residents will gravitate to Dunkin Donuts and it will become a regular destination for many.
“It’s so much more than donuts,” Rajan said. “Our breakfast sandwiches, bagels and coffee are more popular than our donuts. When we first open it will start as a treat. After a while it will become a regular destination.”
Rajan said the location will carry all of Dunkin Donuts’ many products. He said everything is assembled on site and that anything that is made fresh, such as the company’s signature doughnuts, will be baked on site as well.
While he was hesitant to say exactly when the Oglethorpe location will open, he said he hopes it will be sometime in mid-August. Currently renovations are still taking place, but many of the ovens, coolers and display cases are on site and the company has already hired an initial staff of roughly 20 full and part time employees.
When the restaurant opens the hours will be 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. It could, however, change to a 24 hour location if warranted.