Through Six Decades the Adie Family Remains Connected to their Community
By: Cheryl Alkon
Like many long-time franchisee families, the Adies have fond memories of Dunkin’ Donuts days gone by—when customers sat on 18 stools around a horseshoe countertop, drank six-ounce cups of coffee served in china cups with saucers and ate donuts and fancies.
Bill and Arleen Adie opened their first Dunkin’ Donuts in 1968 in Chelmsford, Mass. (about 30 miles northwest of Boston). Back then, women who worked at the Adie’s Dunkin’ wore uniforms consisting of dresses and a decorative pink covering for the hair that pinned to the top of their head. Men wore white pants and a pink shirt adorned with the original Dunkin’ Donuts logo.
At the time, Bill and Arleen were working alternate shifts at an area printing company known as the Courier Citizen company; Bill worked nights as a linotype operator, while Arleen worked days in administration.
They were hard working people, who believed that having their own business would pay off in the future. They accepted it was a lot of work.
“They had to plan for college for their four children back then,” says Tom Adie, who now runs the family business with his brother Don and his brother-in-law Andy Conway.
“When they opened the store, Dad worked both jobs. Dad would start his day greeting customers at 6 a.m. and work at the Dunkin’ shop through the afternoon. From there he worked the second shift at the Courier. Mom would end her day at the Courier at 4 p.m., head home to make dinner and be at the shop in the evening writing payroll checks, interviewing prospective employees and doing the weekly schedule.”
As Tom recalls, Mom and Dad’s shop was a community destination, serving coffee and donuts to a group of locals who all knew each other. It was 15 years before the television show Cheers popularized the idea that people would sit at a bar (or counter) where “everybody knows your name.”
“People would sit together and meet their neighbors; business people would come in and get started for the day. Lawyers, postal workers, construction workers would all chat with each other while having their coffee and sitting on those pink stools. It was an interesting, dynamic and diverse crowd.” Adie remembers.
Bill and Arleen recognized that Dunkin’ was something special and, as it was for most franchisee families at the time, business was the focal point of family activity. During the weekends the entire family worked the shop. “Mom and my sister Janice waiting on the customers, brother Bob manned the finishing table while Don was on the baking table and Dad was on the Pitco fryer,” says Adie, who points out that at age 12, he was frosting 40 dozen chocolate donuts every Sunday in the restaurant’s back room, “all done by hand,” he notes proudly.
“I started working at Dunkin’ Donuts at a young age, and it gets in your blood,” says Adie, who is now 54-years-old. “You enjoy the interaction with the customers. There’s also the thrill of slowly building a store, opening it, and taking it to the next level.”
After graduating with a business degree from Merrimack College in 1981, he joined the family business full time. By then, the interior of their Chelmsford shop had changed—reflecting a move away from the community destination and more towards individual relaxation. “We went with tables, chairs and booths to make the atmosphere more in time with that age,” said Adie. “We had hanging plants in the store and a more calming environment.”
Dunkin’ Donuts was evolving to fit faster-paced culture and its customers’ desire for more choices and more convenience. It was also developing a customer base that remains as loyal as any in the quick service restaurant world. Dunkin’ Donuts became connected to its communities through local owners – like the Adies – and through local sponsorships and advertising campaigns.
“When we saw the success in our Chelmsford location, we wanted to develop more,” Adie says. “We opened a second location in Lowell in 1978, and then we developed more locations from there.”
Today the company, known as Adie Conway, operates 31 Dunkin’ Donuts shops in Lowell, Chelmsford, Tewksbury, Dracut, Bedford, Tyngsborough and Westford—towns along the Interstate 495 corridor through north-central Massachusetts. Many of these shops now reflect Dunkin’s new designs and feature barstool cushioned seats, booths with soft seating, WiFi, satellite radio and plasma TVs. It is a different kind of décor than the old pink and white Dunkin’s, but, in its 21st century way, it can still be the place where neighbors meet and “everybody knows your name.”
That’s definitely the case in Adie’s home state—everybody knows the Dunkin’ name. He says there are many reasons why. “While we had the standalone store in the 1960s and ‘70s, we’ve since evolved to meet our customers’ needs. As we develop different platforms, some of our locations are now in gas stations, or in train stations. Our footprint can fit into a smaller package.”
Dunkin’s all-day menu of sandwiches and hot and cold beverage choices also keeps customers coming back. According to Adie, “The breakfast sandwich is one of the strongest products we have,” and that helps Dunkin’ stand up to competitors like Starbucks and McDonald’s and, even local coffee shops.
Dunkin’ Donuts is still a family business for the Adies, who are now in their sixth decade as operators. Tom’s wife, Lisa Guidoboni, is the company’s human resources and health coordinator. Tom Jr. attends Bentley University, but also found time to develop the AdieConway.com website. Eighteen year-old twins Will and Laura Adie have worked behind the Dunkin’ Donuts counter since they were 16. They are headed to college in the fall, but, Adie says, they will undoubtedly be back at work during school breaks and summer vacations.
Working at Dunkin’ Donuts is a terrific way for people to learn business skills as they enter the workforce, says Adie. “Many people get their first jobs with Dunkin’ Donuts and it teaches them how to connect with people, how to handle money and how to get to work early in the morning.”
It’s not the easiest job, Adie says, but it is rewarding to work with a brand that is so connected with its community. “Our customers appreciate us for what we do, for our heritage, and our recipe of making fresh coffee by the pot and following strict recipe procedures,” said Adie.
They also appreciate the willingness of local franchise owners to support important initiatives. Recently, one of the Adie family’s shops provided – and served – 3,000 cups of coffee, 2,500 donuts, and 1,000 muffins for Lowell General Hospital’s annual cancer walk. It’s just one way of giving back to the communities that have supported the family’s shops for so long, says Adie. “We serve our communities, and we’ve been in the community for a very long time.”
And, through the years, the family has witnessed the evolution of Dunkin’ Donuts, from a local coffee shop to a dynamic global brand. The Adie Conway team believes Dunkin’ Brands is well-positioned as a global franchise leader in the retail food industry. “There has never been a more exciting time to be involved in the Dunkin’ Donuts brand as it evolves to deliver quality beverages and food to a new generation of customers,” Adie says.