New Dunkin’ opens in Salem with DQ Grill & Chill coming
SALEM — It’s about more than just selling donuts.
That’s how Stew White summed up the opening of the new latest-design Dunkin’ on West State Street, along with plans to open a new Dairy Queen Grill & Chill next door.
His dad, Stewart “Joe” White, said they’re investing in the town — a town that’s been very loyal since he first brought Mister Donut to Salem in 1984.
“We love Salem,” Stew said.
Many donuts ago, on Belmont Avenue in Liberty Township in 1978, the White Donuts dynasty began. Joe had worked at previous jobs and when his latest place of employment went out of business, he said he decided “I wanted to get into business on my own if it was possible.”
He started looking for opportunities and it just so happened his wife’s cousin had a Mister Donut in the Pittsburgh market. He checked into the restaurant and opened his first Mister Donut on Belmont Avenue. One day Howard Miller, owner of the Salem Dairy Queen, came into the store. He felt a Mister Donut would go well in Salem.
So Joe leased the building on West State Street from Miller and moved his Mister Donut restaurant to Salem. The rest, as they say, is history.
When Dunkin’ Donuts bought the Mister Donut chain, Joe went along for the ride. He said that was the best thing he ever did. His Mister Donut became the first of his Dunkin’ Donuts. His second was located in Hermitage, Pa., he built one in Alliance and just kept going, with stores in Canton and North Canton in Stark County, stores in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, Columbiana County and two in Pennsylvania.
White Donuts has 28 Dunkin’ locations, including the new one on West State and one on East State Street.
Now the building Miller once owned, where Dunkin’ was located the past 36 years, will become the site of the new Dairy Queen Grill & Chill, picking up where the Miller family’s now closed seasonal walk-up Dairy Queen left off in 2019. The Dairy Queen will be the first for White Donuts.
“The two should balance each other out well,” Stew said.
White Donuts owns that whole corner at West State Street and Dodge Drive, with the corporate headquarters at the corner, then the new Dairy Queen, slated to open in the spring, and the new Dunkin’. The company also owns the property where Sunny’s is located, leasing the spot to the Chinese restaurant.
When White Donuts had the opportunity to expand, Joe said “we felt it was time for Salem to get the latest and greatest Dunkin’.
The new Dunkin’ features two menu boards and two lanes for the drive-thru, which then goes down to one, with customers paying at the first window and picking up at the second. The dining room has a double-sided fire place, free Wifi, lots of outlets and charging for phones built-in to some of the tables, creating a cozy atmosphere, along with a front-facing donut case and a tap system for pouring coffee and specialty drinks.
“For me at least, to rebuild in the area where we started, it’s special,” Stew said. “We really made our home in Salem.”
They credited the loyal customer base, supportive city government and great workforce as reasons for investing in Salem. They added 10 to 15 employees, a mix of part-time and full-time, for the new Dunkin’ and plan to hire workers to staff the new DQ, too.
“The quality of the workers in the Salem area are phenomenal, a loyal, trustworthy employee base,” Stew said.
They also spoke highly of Salem city government, saying Mayor John Berlin was extremely helpful in guiding them towards tax incentives available. The city Planning Commission and City Council also helped with the vacation of an alley behind the buildings for better maneuverability for the drive-thrus at both Dunkin’ and DQ. The entrance to the complex is off of State Street between Dunkin’ and Sunny’s, with access also available from Dodge Drive. A double drive-thru is also planned for DQ.
Joe said the business has changed a lot over the years. In the beginning, the donuts represented 70 to 75 percent of the business. Now it’s more coffee and beverage-driven, along with offerings of breakfast sandwiches and iced drinks.
The new DQ will be open throughout the year, offering a full menu, the traditional ice cream treats and ice cream cakes. There’s still work to be done to transform the former Dunkin’ into DQ, with plans to open in the spring.
Both Stew and Joe said Salem is an excellent place to locate a business.
Joe added that people who come to Salem and invest right, invest money and time, have been successful.
“We want to be good to the town that’s been good to us,” Stew said.
The drive-thru at the new Dunkin’ is open 24/7, with the lobby open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.