When asked if he had any thing to say Thursday during the ribbon-cutting celebration of Dunkin’ Donuts, Bartow City Manager George Long said, “Let me give you three words … Welcome to Bartow.”
The packed shop laughed as Bartow Chamber of Commerce’s President Elect Myrtice Young continued to point out the elected officials and other notable people present at the ribbon-cutting before introducing the franchise’s owner Alex Hernandez, but first letting people know a little something about him.
“Being the historic preservation manager of the history center, I was attending a Heritage Partners meeting yesterday and we were talking about what we can do to make Bartow a destination. And in walks Alex with a package of donuts,” she said.
Then when it was Hernandez’ turn to talk, he said he’d have more than three words. He said opening a store in Bartow, two things have come to his mind. One was accomplishing one of his dreams. The second was how welcome Bartow has made him feel.
“When you go build a Dunkin’ Donuts store you look at the demographics and the traffic, but here from Day 1 you’ve made me feel welcome to Bartow. Throughout the construction and the city coming here to check on things, everyone has made me feel welcome,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez pointed out while Dunkin’ Donuts is a well-known franchise (and its location at 1202 N. Broadway Ave., is around a half-dozen other franchise businesses) this operation is a family business. The store has his two sons, Alex and Randy, working in it. And his wife of 44 years, Gloria Lengyel, were on hand for the ribbon-cutting event. And so was his youngest grandson, Michael.
“This is a family owned business and family project,” he said and he was also quick to point out how busy his family is in making this store successful.
“Alex and Randy … they do all the work … I sign the paychecks, but they do all the work,” he said.
To make his dream in Bartow come to fruition, the franchise opened about a month earlier than he thought it would. A little extra elbow grease on the parts of everyone involved from construction workers to those helping to set up the inside had something to do with that. There is a second Dunkin’ Donuts he is building in Lake Wales and that is about six months from being completed, he said.
And, while the donuts and samples of the coffee were being distributed, Hernandez showed his appreciation to all who allowed what he called his dream come true.
“I had a dream,” he said. “When I looked at this place I knew I wanted to place a store here.”
And, while he had to deal with some problems two days before Friday’s grand opening, because the newspaper erroneously reported a giveaway and left out the phrase “by invitation only,” he weathered that storm. The giving away, though, continued one more day on Thursday.
“I just want to thank all of you and tell you to eat up,” he said. “Everything today is on the house, but as of tomorrow we’re going to start collecting (your) money,” he said.