Krispy Kreme’s iconic Raleigh shop breathes new life
by Kurt Dusterberg
When you have a taste for doughnuts, it’s usually pretty easy to satisfy your craving.
But if you are particular about your pastry — meaning that it has to be a Krispy Kreme from the iconic store on Person Street in downtown Raleigh — then you’re probably breathing a little easier these days.
The popular location closed for 45 days last year as it underwent a major facelift. Out went everything, from the doughnut production lines to the restrooms. When the store reopened last June, it looked familiar from the outside but was completely updated inside.
“With that particular building, because it had been there so long, we had to address two things: production flow and customer flow,” says Mike LaRue, the company’s director of development. “We’ve worked hard to make employees’ lives a little easier, both on the production side and the retail side. We are way above our expectation on that store, and we’re very pleased with it.”
Some changes involve details that most people rarely consider, such as how to route patrons to the cashier as easily as possible.
“It’s easier now to work through the line,” LaRue says. “You do these things to attract new customers, as well as to be more convenient for the folks who have been loyal and regular.”
A retro feel
Fortunately for Krispy Kreme, there’s no shortage of regulars at the Person Street location, which employs 74 people. The store, built in 1971, draws visitors from throughout Raleigh.
Part of the attraction is the store’s curb appeal. Over the course of almost 40 years, its exterior has not changed much. That’s by design, emphasizing a retro look that has become synonymous with the Krispy Kreme brand.
“We call it the heritage-style store,” LaRue says. “They have a characteristic look to them that hearkens back to the old coffee-bar era. We’ve been very true to the exterior look of that building. It has such a rich, traditional history.
“The roof line, the green roof — we call them iconic branding images,” he adds. “We never change the roof lines on that style of store. And the signage is consistent to that particular era. We will update it, but we will never change the footprint of that sign.”
A loyal following
While the exterior structure has some feel-good appeal, time marches on for folks with a sweet tooth. The original glazed doughnuts — known as “originals” or “Krispy Kremes” — will always be the go-to sweet treat, but now the hot doughnuts have some cold company. New Kool Kreme soft-serve ice cream products are offered in vanilla, deep chocolate and chocolate swirl. Customers can keep it simple with a cone, have a shake or create their own sundae.
The Person Street store is accustomed to the positive attention it receives, particularly with events like the Krispy Kreme Challenge, an annual event held each February that requires simultaneous enthusiasm for physical fitness and pigging out. Since 2004, N.C. State University students have sponsored the event, which includes a two-mile run with a break in the middle for scarfing down a dozen doughnuts. The annual race has grown from 12 participants to more than 5,000, with proceeds benefiting the North Carolina Children’s Hospital at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
For most of the year, however, the store counts on more conventional consumers. Regulars and newcomers alike will notice contemporary additions, like digital menu boards and a combination of new colors, materials, and cabinetry finishes.
“The branding, image and color palettes are consistent with our current prototype buildings,” LaRue says.
Behind the scenes, Krispy Kreme enacted cost-effective measures with an eye toward sound environmental practices. The store now features energy-efficient appliances, from the motors on the doughnut line to lighting fixtures.
“It’s just common sense and good business practice,” LaRue says.
Of course, for most people the end experience is the doughnuts, which now are visible on the production line through an enlarged viewing window. Krispy Kreme has left nothing to chance.
“From the folks in the local community who come into the store quite often, we’ve had very favorable comments,” LaRue notes. “We have seen an increase in traffic and an increase in sales.”
The renovations account for a lot of that. There’s also another simple truth from the Krispy Kreme business model.
“When the ‘Hot’ light is on,” LaRue says with a laugh, “that’s always a good thing.”
Kurt Dusterberg is a freelance writer based in Apex.