Big Brands Don't Always Win

Fresh Donuts

Dunkin' Donuts is a chain that I definitely enjoy. They have great branding, and of course, donuts! It's hard to resist stopping in for a quick splurge. Spread across the US, you can pretty much find them anywhere.  However, this is a story of how Dunkin' Donuts didn't win in my hometown of Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

In 1992, a family owned business named Fresh Donuts, opened their doors to the community.  I grew up with one of my best friends', Kim, who's family owned that shop. I can remember countless days and nights hanging out at the donut shop enjoying light, fluffy & flavorful donuts with a Swiss Iced Tea. Fresh Donuts eventually became my second home.

Donuts @ Fresh Donuts

Fresh Donuts Stamp

Their shop wasn't super fancy.  It was quite basic to be honest. Plain white boxes and paper bags, hand stamped with their business name and address, were used for donuts to go. It's still even used to this day! However, it always felt like home when you stepped in.  You could tell, as so many locals gathered there in the morning to start their day off.

A year after they opened, Dunkin' Donuts decided to move in right around the corner.  And when I say right around the corner, I really mean, right around the corner! It was less then 500 ft away.  As a teenager at that time, I felt quite scared for my friend's family and also very angry at Dunkin' Donuts.  How was Fresh Donuts going to survive against Dunkin' Donuts? How were they going to compete with a brand that had so much marketing power and recognition? I didn't think there would be a way!

Well, boy was I wrong! In a true David vs Goliath fashion, Fresh Donuts eventually came out on top. How did a shop with basically no marketing, beat out a powerhouse like Dunkin' Donuts? Let me clue you in on a simple secret first. Business, is all about people. It's about you and me. It's about how a business, product, or service, makes us feel. When we feel positive about something, we're more likely to do business, buy a product, or a use a service. And this is where Fresh Donuts won over the competition. Their genuine and friendly customer service, and of course their delicious donuts, was the key to their success. That Dunkin' Donuts location eventually closed down.

Kim @ Fresh Donuts

The last time I was home, I stopped by the shop to visit Kim.  I caught up with him and sat there for a little while and observed. And I noticed, nothing has changed in terms of how every family member treats their customers. Patrons would come in, and before they even got to the counter, their favorite donut and coffee was being prepared. Kim, knew everyone's name and even what was going on with their lives. It felt like all the regulars were just an extension of the family.

Years later, Dunkin' Donuts did reopen, however this time farther down the road.  I'm quite sure they learned not to be too close to a store they can't compete with!

Photo Credit: Eric Lindinger

Photo Credit: Eric Lindinger

This story has always been an inspiration and life lesson for me.  In personal and in business, do your best to be genuine and friendly, and you'll gain the most loyal friends and customers. So if by chance you're ever in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, stop by Fresh Donuts! Their located at 1202 Cumberland Street, Lebanon, PA 17042.  You can't miss it!