Hot and ReadyBy Allie Hulcher | 08/22/2012 12:57am
Before 10 a.m., 800 Tuscaloosa residents had enjoyed a ‘hot and ready’ Krispy Kreme doughnut, a breakfast that hadn’t been available since April 27, 2011.
“I think this turnout is stronger than anyone could have imagined,” Evan Smith, the store’s general manager, said.
Smith’s grandfather brought the first Krispy Kreme store to Tuscaloosa on Hackberry Lane in 1960 and opened subsequently in Northport and Alberta before consolidating to the McFarland location in 1980. The Smith family stopped serving doughnuts for the first time in 50 years when the April 2011 tornado demolished their building.
“For the last year, people have been hollering, ‘doughnut, doughnut, doughnut, when are you going to open back?’” Frances Smith, Evan Smith’s 83-year-old grandmother who was at the store at 4:15 a.m. to box doughnuts, said. “It’s been a long summer. It was a sad loss when we got blown away, but this is a great beginning.”
Customers began lining up outside the new building hours before the 5 a.m. opening. By the time the doors opened, police cars were directing traffic backed up and down McFarland, and the line outside stretched around the building.
For Evan Smith there was never any doubt that he would rebuild the store – but it wasn’t easy. There were obstacles to get through, including new regulations set up by the city.
“I never thought this day would get here, to be honest with you,” Smith said. “It was a long fight. But that’s behind us.”
Jim Morgan, CEO of Krispy Kreme, held the door open for customers Tuesday morning. He said he wished the store could have opened more quickly, but the timing turned out to be right with University students just coming back into town.
“We really hope that opening will be symbolic of where Tuscaloosa is now and the comeback from that devastation,” Morgan said. “We’ve been here for decades – we’re going to be here for decades again.”
The rebuilt Krispy Kreme building is bigger with more standing and sitting space and a wider window that opens to the doughnut production is wider.
Twenty of the store’s 24 original employees have returned to work again, handing out free bracelets to customers reading, “We’re back! 8-12-12.”
Customers shouted “Krispy Kreme” and “Roll Tide” throughout the store as more waited in line outside. Radio and TV stations were present, and Deontay Wilder even stopped by to show his support.
Georgia Twarog, a life-time resident of Tuscaloosa, said she remembers coming to Krispy Kreme as a child and doing a tour that showed how the doughnuts are made. For her, going to Krispy Kreme yesterday was about more than just getting a doughnut.
“It’s our way of showing support. This is everybody coming together for Tuscaloosa,” Twarog said.