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Wednesday, October 31, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Crowds go doughnuts for Krispy Kreme

Seattle Times Eastside business reporter

The opening of Krispy Kreme in Issaquah yesterday was a lot like Disneyland: You stand in line for three hours, the excitement is over in a matter of seconds, and then you buy a T-shirt.

Hundreds of people, including radio and TV personalities, showed up as early as a day in advance of the opening of Washington state's first store.

Months of sugar-dripping anticipation, and Krispy Kreme, a chain based in Winston-Salem, N.C., had finally made its way across to the Northwest.

But wait three hours for a doughnut?

Even before the 5:30 a.m. opening, a huge crowd of doughnut diners snaked in front of the store at 6210 E. Lake Sammamish Parkway S.E., swirled around the building and stretched across a neighboring parking lot.

Those who chose to get their taste at the drive-through did their best Memorial-Day-at-the-ferry-dock imitations, with cars lined up from the Home Depot parking lot to East Lake Sammamish.

Amazingly, everyone you talked to could justify spending the time in line — even if it was raining. Some claimed to be getting doughnuts for co-workers or for their kids. Others had an agenda.

Nate Frickel, a triathlete who was first in line, thought he could win over Krispy Kreme by arriving at 5:30 p.m. Monday and persuade the company to give him an athletic sponsorship.

Paul Dudley, third in line, owns stock in the company, and wanted to make sure the opening went well. For the record, he purchased 115 shares the day the company first sold stock on the public market. His shares have split twice and were worth $16,114 as of yesterday.

J.R. Dabon, a 17-year-old Krispy Kreme employee, was second in line. And although he works there, he still spent the night in front of the store because he's "the biggest, die-hard fan ever." Which, in this case, was almost believable.

At capacity, the Issaquah store can pump out 250 dozen doughnuts an hour. What that looks like is a bunch of little round rings of dough passing up and down through a mechanized conveyor belt. The rings shuttle through a vat of oil, and finally receive a dousing of milky white glaze.

The whole process seemed to hypnotize customers in line. They snapped out of it, though, as they ate one.

Yesterday, the store was mass-producing the Original Glazed variety. "Have you ever had this kind of doughnut before?" Frickel asked. "They literally melt in your mouth. You don't even have to chew."

Minutes later, a room full of witnesses would see him stuff one fresh from the conveyor belt into his mouth. It looked like he chewed.

While sweetness pulsated in Issaquah, at the other end of Lake Sammamish, Sunghan and Insoom Yoon provided a distinctly contrasting view.

The husband-and-wife team has operated Sunrise Donuts and Espresso on West Lake Sammamish Parkway since May, and no one spent the night outside, and both yesterday morning and again around noontime there wasn't a single person in line.

"We try hard to make a good doughnut everyday," Sunghan said.

The couple, who came to the Northwest from Dallas and are originally from South Korea, arrive at work every day at 2 a.m. to make fresh doughnuts, using a large industrial mixer, twisting and forming just about all the doughnuts by hand.

It's unlikely that the duo — the only employees — could pump out 250 dozen an hour. And they won't beat Krispy Kreme on convenience — they go home at 2 p.m. and refuse to open on Sundays because it's their only day off. Krispy Kreme's drive-through is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Instead of having loud music piped in or having an assembly line of doughnuts to watch, Insoom will entertain you with stories about her five children. In particular, she's proud of her daughter in medical school and her son who is a sophomore in college. On the front counter, there's a jar that reads "Tips 4 my tuition." Another one of their adult children works at Microsoft in Silicon Valley, she said.

During a 30-minute span, only one customer wanders in, a customer who says she stopped in because everyone was talking about doughnuts on the radio, and she just had to have one.

"I've listened all day to people going on and on about the Krispy Kreme, and it's just like these," said Wavelry Cassill of Sammamish, who had been to Sunrise Donuts before.

Insoom let out a big smile.

Although Insoom said business has slowly picked up since their arrival in Redmond, it still isn't as busy as the doughnut shop they ran in Dallas for 20 years.

"Here, it is so slow," she said. "In Texas, it was busy, but maybe after the Krispy Kreme opens, our business will pick up because a lot of people think about it."

Back at Krispy Kreme, the crowds would continue to think about it unabated through the afternoon. For one day at least, doughnuts were the issue of the day.

"I totally think it's an interesting trend," said Craig Campbell, in line at the drive-through and who would probably be late for a meeting at Microsoft. "Doughnuts are good, but really they are all ending up in the same place. It's a doughnut."

Tricia Duryee can be reached at 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com.

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