In just a few hours, Dunkin’ Donuts will open its first Los Angeles location, on Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica, and some serious Dunkin’ Donuts fans are not fucking around. Well, they’re kind of fucking around: Setting up tents, sharing pizza, donning shirts with giant D’s on them, taking pictures together and getting excited to finally have the coffee they crave.
When I stopped by before 10 p.m. around 20 people had already gathered—the first 100 customers will get a swag bag from Dunkin’, hence the growing crowd. The grand prize goes to the first person in line: One year of free coffee. I went and shook the hand of that dedicated individual, Johnny Hoops, a native of Connecticut who moved to LA 21 years ago. Hoops, a character actor whose credits include a couple episodes of the former NBC show My Name Is Earl, arrived in line at 9:30 p.m. Sunday night, 31.5 hours before the shop would open. “I miss Dunkin’ Donuts. I love Dunkin’ Donuts. I always had to go to Vegas to get it because it wasn’t here in LA,” said Johnny, who had ventured here from his home in Studio City, which can be a half hour drive on a good day, and an eternity all other days.
“You do realize there is a Krispy Kreme open across the street, right?” I asked Johnny and the assembled Dunkin’ fans, who then stared at me like I had shit smeared all over my shirt. “We don’t like Krispy Kreme,” Johnny said.
“This is about the coffee,” Greg Cohen (pictured above), a Long Island native interjected. “Every time I go back home, the first thing I do when I get off the plane is get a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.”
That was a common refrain. This queue was about mainlining some French Vanilla light and sweet right at 5 a.m., and not so much about the donuts, which they all seemed to like, but that’s not why they were sleeping on pavement for an evening. The dedication surprised even the people who owned the place. A few hours earlier Dunkin’ Donuts employees dropped by the line to deliver some muffins. “They were laughing at us for being out here,” Greg said. “They couldn’t believe it, but we’re all East Coasters out here.”
Camaraderie in the line was building, enough that it compelled Greg’s fiancé Arielle Miller to hang out overnight. “Initially I wasn’t planning on staying seeing as I need to work early tomorrow,” Arielle admits, “However, I’m having a nice time, so I’ve decided to stay.”
The couple dined on some sensible salads propped up on a lawn chair, while Johnny finished his Jack In the Box burger and a young woman walked up from the back of the line offering deep fried cheese to anyone interested. I thought I could hear the faint whisper of the Star Spangled Banner in the distance, but maybe I was just my love of this country in that moment that was making me daydream a little.
Though the mood was good, Greg and Arielle were a little disappointed they weren’t first in line, seeing Johnny sitting alone when they arrived Monday morning around 11 a.m. “My thought was ‘it’s Labor Day, people won’t start getting out here until five in the afternoon.’ I finished teaching a fitness class, so I thought I’d come over and hang out,” Greg said.
“We almost left when we saw Johnny here,” Arielle, who was teaching a fitness class the next morning, said.
Yes. You read that right. Two of the first three people in line for the opening of a donut shop are professional fitness instructors. “I taught two spin classes this morning,” Greg said. “Got in line for some coffee and then I’ve got two more classes tomorrow.”
Though it was clear Greg coveted the first spot in line and the full year of free coffee that it would have granted him, there didn’t appear to be any subterfuge afoot to knock Johnny from the top spot. Greg and Arielle even held Johnny’s place when he had to go to the bathroom. The trip was inevitable, considering Hoops had been in line for almost 24 hours. But where did he venture when nature called?
“Shhhh, don’t tell anybody,” Johnny replied. “But we go to the Starbucks a block away.”
Night falls on the gathering line.
Arielle Miller takes in some sun earlier in the day.
A group picture with some of the first arrivers.
Muffins from Dunkin poo-bahs are enjoyed.