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Original Dunkin’ Donuts in Quincy goes retro

Renovation brings an old-time jolt to doughnut chain’s first shop

Franchisees Victor and Octavio Carvalho went retro when remodeling the Dunkin’ Donuts on Southern Artery in Quincy — the chain’s original restaurant — giving it a look and feel reminiscent of what it had when it opened in 1950, including a script outdoor sign and counter with stools.Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

All that’s really missing is the 10-cent cup of coffee.

Earlier this month, the original Dunkin’ Donuts on Southern Artery in Quincy got an unusual makeover - one that restored the look and feel of the restaurant to what it was when it opened in 1950, down to the old-fashioned script outdoor sign and horseshoe counter with stools.

“As soon as I walked into the store, I called my sister up,’’ said lifelong Quincy resident Robert LaFleur, 63. “She’s a Dunkin’ Donuts fanatic. I said, ‘You’ll never guess where I am - I’m sitting at the counter at Dunkin’ Donuts!’ ’’


The retro Dunkin’ is one of a kind - and will remain that way. Canton-based Dunkin’ Donuts does not plan to approve any more blast-from-the-past renovations, though it will celebrate tomorrow with a marching band and employees in retro uniforms.

That’s all fine by Dunkin’ franchisee Victor Carvalho, who owns the original location with his brother Octavio. The company paid an undisclosed sum to redo the restaurant.

“We were looking to acknowledge and recognize the brand, let people know that this is the original,’’ said Victor Carvalho. “A lot of locals know it is the original - now, there is no doubt about it.’’

Carvalho said customers expected the 11-day renovation to yield a modern-looking restaurant, not one that took them down memory lane.

“The day we opened, a guy came in and sat right on the stool, which is where he sat 20 years ago,’’ Carvalho said. “He was giddy to be sitting at the counter again, in the same spot he used to sit for so many years.’’

The world’s largest doughnut chain isn’t the first to look to the past for inspiration. McDonald’s and Denny’s have restored a few locations, usually in their originating markets, said Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president in food-service strategies at WD Partners, a Columbus, Ohio, design and development firm.


“It evokes to the consumer a connection back to the history of the brand and the longevity of the brand,’’ he said.

But going retro is as much for the workers and franchisees as it is for customers: “It creates little warm fuzzies,’’ Lombardi added.

For this particular Quincy location, the old-fashioned decor creates a buzz around a small shop with no drive-through and limited parking that doesn’t fit the modern Dunkin’ model, said Daniel Newcomb, broker at the commercial real estate firm Atlantic Restaurant Group in Marshfield.

Instead of building a new restaurant on the site and destroying the “holy grail’’ of Dunkin’ Donuts where the brand was born, the company is playing up the shop’s historic role.

“It’s a great marketing move,’’ Newcomb said. “It’s a way for them to maximize the exposure of this unit.’’

Bill Rosenberg opened the Open Kettle shop in 1948 before renovating and changing its name to Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950. Rosenberg first started selling food in pushcarts to nearby factory workers but decided to focus on coffee and doughnuts because they were his bestsellers.

The founder’s son, Bob Rosenberg, now 73, began working at the shop as a porter mopping floors and filling doughnuts when he was 14.

The family thought the Open Kettle name did not say much about its products, and asked the store’s architect for advice.

“What do you do with a doughnut? You pluck a chicken. You dunk a doughnut,’’ Bob Rosenberg recalled.


In 1950, coffee was only a dime a cup, and the choices were original and decaf. Today a small coffee costs $1.55, but oh the choices: nine permanent flavors, plus four seasonal ones such as pumpkin and gingerbread. A dozen doughnuts originally cost 69 cents; today they are $6.99 a dozen.

Bill Rosenberg sold the original Quincy store to his sister, Bertha Schwarz, who then sold the store to Jose Carvalho, Victor and Octavio’s father, in 1979. Their father, a former factory worker, was looking to create a better life for his family. The brothers now run the Quincy store along with eight other locations.

Many customers, like LaFleur, have been coming to the original Dunkin’ Donuts since the day the store turned on the oven and opened its doors.

“I remember stopping in here with my father on Saturdays for coffee and a doughnut before heading in to town,’’ LaFleur said. “Dunkin’ Donuts has been like a centerpiece of my family.’’

Locals enjoyed showing off where the chain began, a nod to doughnut history.

“Dunkin’ Donuts is something Quincy could be proud of,’’ said Albert Bartoloni, 65, of Quincy. “Seeing the counter, it brought back memories from when we were kids, and the coffee tastes the same as I remember.’’