Jim Shulman | Baby Boomer Memories: Dunkin' Donuts came to the Berkshires 60 years ago – Berkshire Eagle

Dunkin’ Donuts advertisement for the First Street store in Pittsfield in 1974, soon after its doughnut holes were named Munchkins.
The second Dunkin’ Donuts shop in Pittsfield, at 18 First St., opened in 1967 and had a dinerlike counter service and no drive-thru window. The shop offered 52 doughnut varieties and was open 24 hours a day.
Michael Vale, a veteran actor and Stockbridge resident, played a sleepy-eyed television and print ad character, Fred the Baker, whose catchphrase for Dunkin’ Donuts was, “Time to make the doughnuts!” Vale, who served as Fred from 1982 until retiring in 1997, operated the Apple Tree Inn in Lenox in 1983.

JIM SHULMAN

Dunkin’ Donuts advertisement for the First Street store in Pittsfield in 1974, soon after its doughnut holes were named Munchkins.
I was a high school student when Dunkin’ Donuts opened locally.
I fell in love with their doughnut holes. These were created to make use of the dough cut from the middle of the doughnut and were a bargain at 19 cents for a dozen. About five were equal to a single doughnut, and there wasn’t a flavor I didn’t savor.
In 1973, the doughnut holes became known as Munchkins and are still a favorite, but are now 20 to 25 cents each. Although Munchkins were allegedly named for the “Wizard of Oz” characters, some marketing professionals claim it was coined by hippies who had the doughnut hole “munchies.”
Sixty years ago, the first local Dunkin’ Donuts store opened, at 885 Dalton Ave., in Coltsville Corners, by Allen and Ralph Gable. They had been successful in operating launderettes throughout New England, and their new doughnut operation was the first Western Massachusetts location in the then-young doughnut chain of 80 stores.
The grand opening was in August 1961, and attended by Pittsfield Mayor Raymond Haughey and state Rep. Thomas Woitkowski. The small shop served freshly brewed coffee and 52 doughnut varieties, one for each week, a marketing ploy of the parent company.
The second Dunkin’ Donuts shop in Pittsfield, at 18 First St., opened in 1967 and had a dinerlike counter service and no drive-thru window. The shop offered 52 doughnut varieties and was open 24 hours a day.
In 1967, the second Dunkin’ Donuts store opened in Pittsfield, replacing a Gulf gas station at 18 First St. Over the years, this shop has had several different operators and numerous renovations, including a controversial drive-in window opened in 1998 that resulted in countless traffic tie-ups on the popular street.
As Dunkin’ Donuts began to expand throughout the Berkshires, the firm and franchisees were confronted not only with concerns about traffic problems, but also about building designs, the razing of historic buildings and littering.
On a more positive note, many applauded the company for being one of the first chains to ban smoking nationally, to lessen the fat and cholesterol in its offerings and to add other healthier choices to the menu.
In addition to doughnuts, beginning in the mid-1970s, Dunkin’ Donuts began introducing items like soup, bagels, croissants and breakfast sandwiches. However, it wasn’t until 2019 that the company changed its name to Dunkin’, to reflect America’s changing eating habits toward fresher, less-fatty foods.
In 1970, the Coltsville shop closed and a short-lived, locally owned doughnut shop, Sodie’s, opened in its place. The same year, a new franchisee, Burton Kehoe, opened the North Adams location. A larger franchisee group from Eastern Massachusetts, the Cafua family, eventually acquired this shop and opened a Dunkin’ Donuts in Adams in 1995.
In 1993, franchisees John Amato and Anthony Pangione, from the Boston area, opened a Lee location and two years later added one in Great Barrington. Of the Pittsfield owners, Joseph Santos, who bought the First Street location in 1984, later opened shops at 84 Dalton Ave. and at Pontoosuc Lake, in the vacant Mrs. Murphy’s Chowderhouse.
In 2000, Santos sold his three franchises to the Cafua operation. Eventually, Santos opened his own shop, the Donut Man, for several years at the vacated Pontoosuc Dunkin’ Donuts site.
Unlike many franchise organizations, Dunkin’ Donuts did not initially carve out an entire area to one franchisee. However, the Cafua organization acquired most of the 13 Dunkin’ Donut operations in the Berkshires, including six in Pittsfield. This Methuen company is the country’s largest Dunkin’ franchisee, with over 300 locations in seven states.
Dunkin’ Donuts was originally founded by William “Bill” Rosenberg, who grew up in Dorchester. Bill had dropped out of school in eighth grade, during the Great Depression, to help his parents out.
During his teen years, he worked hard and became a successful salesman. In 1948, he used savings and money from war bonds to open a doughnut and coffee shop in Quincy that he called the Open Kettle. His shop became known for great coffee and the freshest doughnuts. It was so successful that he opened six more shops in five years and called them Dunkin’ Donuts, a name coined by his architect.
Howard Johnson’s, another Quincy-based food service company, had successfully expanded by franchising its ice cream and restaurant business. Noting Johnson’s earlier success, Rosenberg began franchising Dunkin’ Donuts in 1955, and in 1963 he made his 25-year old son, Robert, CEO of the growing company.
Bill remained chairman of the organization. His brother-in-law, Harry Winouker, had originally been a partner in the original restaurant but early on left and started his own chain of shops, called Mister Donut.
Michael Vale, a veteran actor and Stockbridge resident, played a sleepy-eyed television and print ad character, Fred the Baker, whose catchphrase for Dunkin’ Donuts was, “Time to make the doughnuts!” Vale, who served as Fred from 1982 until retiring in 1997, operated the Apple Tree Inn in Lenox in 1983.

JIM SHULMAN
The growing number of Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees did very well, as did the parent company. Dunkin’ Donuts went public in 1968, and in 1990 it was acquired for a reported $325 million by the Baskin-Robbins ice cream owner, Allied Lyons. This investor also bought the Mister Donut organization in the U.S. and created the Dunkin’ Brands Group out of all three chains. The successful founder of Dunkin’, Bill Rosenberg, had retired to Florida, where he died in 2002, at the age 86, leaving quite a legacy.
In December 2020, Inspire Brands, the country’s second-largest food service company, with 32,000 restaurants in 60 countries, bought the Dunkin’ Brands Group for $11.3 billion. Today, Dunkin’ has over 12,000 locations in the U.S. and in 40 countries. Dunkin’ is now the world’s largest coffee and baked goods chain, serving more than 2,700,000 customers every day.
One of the most popular advertising campaigns that worked for Dunkin’ Donuts had a Berkshire connection. Michael Vale, a veteran actor and Stockbridge resident, played a sleepy-eyed television and print ad character, Fred the Baker, whose catchphrase was, “Time to make the doughnuts!”
Vale, who served as Fred from 1982 until retiring in 1997, had also operated the Apple Tree Inn in Lenox in 1983.
Jim Shulman, a Pittsfield native living in Ohio, is the author of “Berkshire Memories: A Baby Boomer Looks Back at Growing Up in Pittsfield.” If you have a memory of a Berkshire baby-boom landmark, business or event you’d like to share or read about, please write Jim at [email protected].
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