The Donut Man in Hadley closes, makes way for Dunkin’ Donuts

  • The Donut Man on Russell Street in Hadley has closed. The shop will become a Dunkin’ Donuts. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Sunday, September 10, 2017

HADLEY — After a 15-year run on busy Russell Street in the center of town, The Donut Man has closed to make way for a local franchise of national chain Dunkin’ Donuts.

The Donut Man’s owner, Joseph Santos, said he was forced out by property owner Shipman Realty Corp., despite his interest in renewing the lease.

“The case was the owner made a deal with someone else,” Santos said.

Santos continues to run three other shops, with the others in Pittsfield, Dalton and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Those three locations are not affected by the Hadley closing, Santos said when reached Thursday by telephone at the Myrtle Beach store.

Raymond Shipman of Hadley, who runs Shipman Realty Corp., declined to comment.

While a 2016 project to widen Route 9 took a toll on The Donut Man’s business at 142 Russell St., Santos said this was not a factor in the closing.

“We went through hard times when they shut the road down, but that didn’t determine we would be closing,” Santos said.

Sandra Varela, manager at the time, told the Gazette in August 2016 that the multimillion-dollar reconstruction had cost the business hundreds of dollars per day, dropping daily sales from $1,000 to less than $300.

“I did love Hadley,” Santos said. “Hadley was a place I really liked.”

Santos said another factor that may have led to losing the lease on the property was an incident in which one of his delivery drivers allegedly hit a Shipman Realty employee shoveling the sidewalk outside of the shop in December. The driver was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a charge he denied in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown.

Meantime, plans for the property, at the corner of Route 9 and Middle Street, were presented to the town’s Planning Board in May by Michael Pereira, a local Dunkin’ Donuts franchise owner.

Efforts to reach Pereira and Dunkin’ Donuts corporate headquarters Thursday were unsuccessful.

At that Planning Board meeting, the board waived site plan review for Pereira’s plans, said clerk William Dwyer, because the only changes are the replacement of existing signs and moving the drive-thru window to the north, to allow a longer queue of vehicles.

“Otherwise there will be no exterior alterations. They’re just redoing what’s already there,” Dwyer said.

When the new store opens in the next few months, Dunkin’ will shutter its nearby location within the Philips 66 gas station convenience store at 110 Russell St., Pereira said.

“I’m planning on moving that location to go into The Donut Man,” Pereira told the board.

Hadley has a second Dunkin’ Donuts with a drive-thru at 331 Russell St., in front of Mountain Farms Mall, which Pereira also owns.

Previously, Dunkin’ Donuts in 2003 sought approval to put a drive-thru window at the gas station site, a proposal that was rejected because of the small site and lack of area to store snow during the winter.

While some Dunkin’ Donuts have had issues with vehicles spilling into bordering roads, Dwyer said The Donut Man’s site is configured so that vehicles would back up through the parking lot, rather than into a public way.

The Donut Man history

The Donut Man was founded in 2002 by Joseph Santos and his brother Tony Santos, who brought decades of experience in the doughnut industry when they opened the restaurant at the former bank building. They renovated the 1,900-square-foot interior and added a kitchen where doughnuts and other baked goods were made on site.

The sign, with the “o” depicting a doughnut with pink frosting, was designed by Tony Santos’ daughter.

The Donut Man gained popularity with residents, commuters, students and nearby workers almost immediately, opening at a time when the campus for the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Public Charter School was in Hadley center. It was a gathering spot for some. One resident’s obituary, for example, mentioned her being part of the “Donut Man Gang.”

“Their coffee was very good, their doughnuts were always fresh and people got to know us,” said Diane Baj, of Kozera Avenue.

Baj said she and several friends continued to go to The Donut Man for coffee after exercise classes at the Hadley Senior Center across Middle Street.

“I’m going to miss it, and I think a lot of people will miss it,” Baj added, observing that when her grandchildren, who live in Arlington, Virginia, visited, they would always ask to go to “Mr. Donut.”

Martin Vega, who lives at Golden Court, said he is sad to see another “mom and pop” restaurant disappear.

“I’m upset to hear Dunkin’s moving in there,” Vega said. “It kind of seems it’s the ever-growing growth of capitalism and monopoly.”

But he acknowledged its proximity to his home would likely mean he will go to Dunkin’ Donuts when it arrives.

One of the few restaurants left in the region focused primarily on doughnuts is Glazed Doughnut Shop, which has stores in Northampton and Amherst.

Glazed owner Keren Rhodes said a challenge for anyone interested in running such a shop is that the process of making a doughnut is more complex and time consuming than many other baked goods. Her shops, she added, have also focused on paying employees a fair living wage.

“I think that most of our customers appreciate our high quality and taste standards, and support us in our mission to treat our employees fairly, and thus are willing to pay the higher prices we must charge,” Rhodes said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.