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A decent cup of coffee but no souvenir at the birthplace of Dunkin’

Alexander Pyles//August 27, 2012

A decent cup of coffee but no souvenir at the birthplace of Dunkin’

By Alexander Pyles

//August 27, 2012

I drove more than 400 miles for a coffee mug last weekend and came away with a cup of coffee I’ve sipped a hundred times before.

More accurate, if we’re getting technical, is that I drove that far for the mug and a Saturday night baseball game at 100-year-old Fenway Park, home of the recently rebooted Boston Red Sox.

But, while in the area, two caffeine-addicted friends and I thought it would be a waste if we didn’t visit the very first Dunkin’ Donuts, founded in 1950 about 30 miles south of Beantown in Quincy, Mass.

We went in determined to walk out with a new, souvenir coffee mug.

We came out with the same Styrofoam cup of black coffee we’ve bought at every Dunkin’ Donuts in Baltimore.

It wasn’t because we had a change of heart.

Pull on the doors of any Dunkin’ and the shop is often pedaling locally-branded coffee mugs. Early Saturday morning, a shop we stopped at just outside Hartford, Conn., certainly was.

But in Quincy? Nada.

Maybe it was a nod to the coffee and doughnut chain’s working class mantra — busy Americans runnin’ on Dunkin’ don’t have time for souvenirs.

But I couldn’t help but think it was a missed revenue opportunity for the Quincy shop, which was pretty quiet at about 1 p.m. Sunday as a few tourists stood outside taking photos.

The modest store  — with only an exterior sign and a narrow display on a back wall denoting its historic importance to coffee drinkers nationwide — was especially surprising when compared to the Starbucks museum/gift shop/coffee store (in that order) at its original location in Seattle.

T-shirts, special-roasted bags of coffee and a live band made the Starbucks at the Pike Place Fish Market more of a tourist attraction than a functional cafe. Last summer, I stood in line for more than a half hour before ordering a venti Pike Place Roast to wake me up before a Seattle Mariners game.

Sunday, at Dunkin’ Donuts, I walked right up to the counter and ordered a medium black coffee and vanilla-frosted doughnut. Transaction time, from start to finish: Less than two minutes. Transaction total: Less than $3.

Normally, I’d applaud such service. And I have to admit, it was fairly refreshing to walk into the original location of the coffee chain and find a simple shop instead of a shrine.

But, man, I was really looking forward to getting a new coffee mug.


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