601 Broadway, Chula Vista
Dunkin’ Donuts’ imminent arrival in San Diego is understandably big news; perhaps even more so now that the company has officially returned to California with the opening of a store in Barstow! San Diego’s glut of East Coast transplants’ collective mouths water at the thought of loops from the ancestral homeland. Here’s a list of acceptable synonyms for the popular donut chain, just to keep everyone up to date:
Dunkin’s Dunk’s Dunkie’s Du-Do’s (pronounced DOO-doze) Double D
It’s only a matter of time before we’re hearing, “Lemme just run over to Double D and grab a coffee” on our streets again. The chain pulled out of California slowly throughout the '90s. The last store closed in San Jose, and the company had fled SD well before that, but it left behind a ghost. A ghost named Sunny Donuts.
Anyone excited about the return of Dunk’s should really think about popping into a Sunny Donuts store. When Dunkin’s went away, the old franchise owners retained the properties and started their own brand 25 years ago. Four stores remain: 601 Broadway, Chula Vista; 724 Highland Avenue, National City; 4199 Spring Street, La Mesa; and 9330 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.
Rather than re-decorate, Sunny’s owners figured that brand loyalty would pay the bills. They changed nothing. Walking into a Sunny Donuts is like stepping into a Dunkin’s from 1990. The plastic menu boards list, in familiar pink and orange type, the products available at Dunkin’ Donuts the last time the company operated in California, in the days before Dunkaccino and Coffee Coolatta confused an otherwise austere coffee and donuts menu. Even the individual labels for the donuts and munchkins are left over from a long-forgotten era, as are the round, swivelling bar stools set before the counter. Only the prices have changed with the times. They also don't take credit cards.
In all fairness, there are a few key differences. Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t have aguas frescas, for example. But the similarities far outnumber the minor alterations.
From a personal standpoint, walking into Sunny Donuts was powerfully nostalgic for me. I knew the basic story of how Dunk’s had become Sunny, but the experience of stepping into such a time capsule, as I recently did, sent me back to the “it’s time to make the donuts” era, and begging my father for a “tractor tire” (French crullers look like the rear wheels from a John Deere) when he got his coffee. I daresay I misted up a little as I ordered coffee and a glazed donut at Sunny, such was the impact of nostalgia.
When Dunkin’ Donuts opens up in San Diego in 2014, it won’t be the same company that pulled out of our market decades ago. Sure, they will still offer the same basic donuts, but much has changed. Today’s Dunkin’ Donuts sell lattes, for Pete’s sake! Sunny Donuts, on the other hand, is Dunkin’s as it was, and always will be. If you’re stoked on Dunkin’s return, do yourself a favor and check out Sunny first. You just might find what you didn’t know you sought.