The franchise owner for new Dunkin’ Donuts stores in the Akron area and other parts of Northeast Ohio is halfway through his goal of adding 22 locations and says the market is doing well.
“The brand has done a really good job,” said Ken Blum. “Our name is Dunkin’ Donuts, but we’re probably better known for our coffee than for our doughnuts.”
Blum’s multiple franchises give him and his partners the rights to a U-shaped area from Avon to Akron to Aurora, or what Blum calls his “triple A” territory, which does not include the Cleveland suburbs or Canton. Blum said he believes he is the largest independent Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee in Northeast Ohio.
The companies now have 11 locations — the newest store at 3205 Manchester Road in Coventry Township opened a month ago and plans a grand-opening celebration Sept. 15.
Other locations in the franchise are in Medina on Court Street, on Tallmadge Circle, on High Street in Wadsworth, on Center Road in Brunswick and on Pearl Road in Strongsville.
Under construction are a location in Westgate Plaza in the Hawkins area of West Akron (in the old Smoker’s World) and in Macedonia off state Route 82 at 815 E. Aurora Road. Both should be ready by late October or early November, Blum said.
Blum’s agreement allows him to build new Dunkin’ Donuts operations in his area. Other locations that were already built, such as ones within Circle K gas stations, are run separately, he said, estimating that there are probably 50 stores in the area.
Next up after Macedonia and West Akron are a store in Kent in an old gas station across from campus on Main Street and in Aurora and Broadview Heights.
Blum decided to move his family to the Akron area from Boston to develop the Greater Cleveland and Akron market for Dunkin’ Donuts.
Five years ago, the company opened its first store in Stow on Graham Road off state Route 8 in what had been a Pizza Hut.
His brother, Bob Blum, already lived in the area and was part of the reason Ken Blum decided to move here. Bob Blum now works for the company as a district manager.
Before he got into the Dunkin’ Donuts business, Ken Blum was a banker, specializing in lending to franchise businesses. His largest portfolio was for Dunkin’ Donuts and his partners, who have had franchises with the company for 40 years and have locations in central Massachusetts, Rochester, N.Y. and Florida, were his first customers. Eventually, they invited him to join their organization and they decided Blum would develop the Cleveland market.
Blum and his wife, Gerri, trained and worked in their partners’ stores before starting their Cleveland franchise. Gerri does operational support and runs the human resources end of the business. The companies have about 160 employees, with each new store adding 15 to 25 employees.
Each new store is about a $1 million investment, said Blum, who joked that the company is headquartered in the family’s Hinckley Township laundry room. The Blums have four children.
Blum said he is always looking for locations for new stores. When the company arrived, it bought the rights to develop 22 stores in the next seven to 10 years.
“We’ve got places we’d love to be, but we’re not there yet,” he said.
The company tries to construct buildings that stand alone when it can, but is adaptable. For instance, the West Akron store is the first without a drive-through.
“That’ll be interesting to see how that goes,” he said.
The brand is seeing a resurgence and is strong, Blum said.
Twenty years ago when Dunkin’ Donuts, based out of Boston, first arrived in Northeast Ohio, there wasn’t as much support for the brand, Blum said.
“It really succeeds to grow market to market,” he said. “By the time we came into the market five years ago, the brand was strong in New York, so Cleveland and Pittsburgh were natural evolutionary footprints to expand into.
“The market’s done pretty well over the last six to seven years. It was on a nice uptick and the stores were starting to gain momentum. Our goal is not to screw it up,” he said.
Though some Dunkin’ Donuts franchises partner with Baskin Robbins in the same store, Blum said he is “laser focused on just Dunkin’ Donuts.”
While Blum acknowledged that there are no low-fat doughnuts, he said the brand has done a good job of finding healthy alternatives, like egg-white breakfast sandwiches.
“Any nutritionist would say if you have a well-balanced diet and you want to have a treat in moderation, that’s not a bad thing. We do try to offer alternatives. One day you can have your doughnut, then next day you can have your egg white on an English muffin and we can make lattes with those as well,” he said.
Similarly, as fast-food competitors have tried to chip away at the breakfast market, Dunkin’ Donuts has started offering lunch and dinner items, such as tuna and chicken salad and ham and cheese sandwiches, Blum said.