Owners starting from scratch

Lawrence doughnut shops benefiting from closure of Dunkin Donuts

There will be a giant hole in the Lawrence doughnut business for at least the next three months.

Dunkin Donuts, the lone doughnut shop along commuter-laden 23rd Street, closed last week as part of a plan to demolish the approximately 20-year-old store and build a new doughnut business on the site.

Store co-owner Dee Patel said the shop would be closed until at least late December and possibly until early January. When the store reopens, it still will be a Dunkin Donuts, he said, but will feature a drive-through lane.

“We think the drive-through will increase our business by about 25 percent,” Patel said.

“Sometimes people call us and ask if we have a drive-through, and we have to say no, and then they say they won’t come because they have kids and they don’t want to get out of the car or mess with finding a parking spot.”

Patel said demolition of the building, at 521 W. 23rd St., should be completed by next week. The size of the new building will be about the same, but it will be designed to allow for the drive-through and an “upgraded” seating area.

He said the new building would include two televisions in the indoor seating area and an outdoor patio that will seat about 10 people.

“It’s an older building, and we thought the best thing would be to just start over,” Patel said about the decision to close the shop and demolish the store.

Dunkin Donuts, 521 W. 23rd St., is closed for a rebuilding project. The owners, from left, Lala Patel, Sonny Patel and Dee Patel, are pictured in the building Wednesday. The building will be torn down during the next week. A new building is scheduled to be built with a drive-through window and outdoor patio.

The decision, though, will leave dozens of loyal customers looking for a new way to start their day. Patel, who has owned the store since 1991, said he saw former customers on an almost-daily basis asking when the store would reopen.

“People love our coffee,” Patel said. “That’s really the biggest part of our business. I’ve had people call me up at home and ask me how they can get our coffee. They tell me I need to put a coffee machine in my garage so they can come by.

“I just tell them we are going to reopen as quick as we can.”

In the meantime, other Lawrence doughnut shops are hoping to win over some of Dunkin’s customers.

Mary Jo Elston, an employee at Munchers Bakery, 925 Iowa, said she had noticed a surge in business.

“We pretty much got wiped out. I don’t have much left to sell,” Elston said early Wednesday afternoon. “They’ve been going out of here by the dozens, not one or two at a time.”

At the Clinton Parkway Hy-Vee Food and Drug Store, Dean Gubbels, bakery manager, estimated the store had had a 10 percent increase in its doughnut sales since Dunkin Donuts closed.

That’s not bad, considering Hy-Vee normally sells about 1,500 donuts a day, Gubbels said.