Krispy Kreme spreads holiday cheer at outlet destroyed by fire

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Krispy Kreme spreads holiday cheer at outlet destroyed by fire

Drive-through pop-up is hopeful sign of return of longtime doughnut shop on Ponce de Leon

Six original glazed, three chocolate iced glazed and three chocolate iced filled with custard — Terica Lockhard tapped the order into her touchpad, took the credit card payment and the driver pulled forward to the green trailer. Lavenus Fulton handed him a box bearing the familiar Krispy Kreme logo.

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Lavenus Fulton hands a customer an order of Krispy Kreme doughnuts at the pop-up location on Ponce de Leon in Midtown Atlanta. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Lavenus Fulton hands a customer an order of Krispy Kreme doughnuts at the pop-up location on Ponce de Leon in Midtown Atlanta. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

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Lavenus Fulton hands a customer an order of Krispy Kreme doughnuts at the pop-up location on Ponce de Leon in Midtown Atlanta. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

The exchanges with customers on a damp, gray December morning were handled differently from the 56 years a Krispy Kreme store was in business at 295 Ponce de Leon Ave. in Midtown Atlanta, but the transactions provided a cheerful reminder that the beloved 24-hour doughnut shop was on its way back, after having been shuttered in February because of a fire, then demolished this summer after a second blaze in July.

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A fast-moving fire broke out at the landmark Krispy Kreme on Ponce de Leon Avenue early on Feb. 10. John Spink/john.spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

 A  fast-moving fire broke out at the landmark Krispy Kreme on Ponce de Leon Avenue early on Feb. 10. John Spink/john.spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

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A fast-moving fire broke out at the landmark Krispy Kreme on Ponce de Leon Avenue early on Feb. 10. John Spink/john.spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

And, the temporary pop-up store is tangible evidence of the promise that one of the owners, Shaquille O’Neal, posted on the sign at the corner of Ponce and Argonne avenues: “We will bounce back better than ever.”

On Dec. 7, Krispy Kreme opened the drive-through-only shop at its Ponce de Leon location. It’s open seven days a week — 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays — and doughnut lovers can pull into the entrance on Argonne Avenue and order from a limited menu that includes the flagship original glazed, as well as other classics and a handful of seasonal flavors.

The fresh doughnuts are prepared at the company’s West End location and delivered to the sister site twice a day. The only difference from before: They aren’t hot. Customers don’t seem to mind, though. On busy Fridays, the most popular day for doughnut runs at this pop-up, they sell upward of 4,000 of the pastries.

Like many Atlantans who hold a fondness for this location — perhaps even more so since O’Neal joined the ownership in 2016 — these employees yearn for the famous Hot Now neon sign to be lit again.

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A sign outside the Krispy Kreme on Ponce de Leon Ave promises, "We will bounce back better than ever. Shaq." Shaquille O'Neal is one of the store's owners. Ben Brasch/ben.brasch@ajc.com

Krispy Kreme sign in Atlanta

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A sign outside the Krispy Kreme on Ponce de Leon Ave promises, "We will bounce back better than ever. Shaq." Shaquille O'Neal is one of the store's owners. Ben Brasch/ben.brasch@ajc.com

“This was my favorite Krispy Kreme,” said Fulton, whose grandfather first introduced her to Krispy Kreme doughnuts at this store. “This is one of the original locations. It’s been here a long time. Everybody from the Midtown area — they love it.”

Fulton has been eating doughnuts here for years, but she only joined the Krispy Kreme team a few weeks ago. As she stood outside, bundled up in a winter coat, she told me about how she had worked at Jason’s Deli for three and a half years, before finally resigning from her supervisor position in early 2021. “It’s been a lot going on since COVID,” she said. “A lot of people were quitting, and it made the job really hard. People (employees) didn’t want to come in, because they didn’t want to catch COVID.”

Fulton said she even turned down a role with additional managerial responsibilities. “It was going to be too much on me,” she said.

Instead, she filled her days shuttling food and passengers as a driver for Uber Eats and Lyft.

The Krispy Kreme job is literally a breath of fresh air for Fulton. “It’s pretty cool,” she said. “I never really worked outside before. You get to interact with customers. Every car that comes through, they are like, ‘Thank you for being here. We really appreciate you guys.’”

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Krispy Kreme employees (from left) Lavenus Fulton, Alondria Fulks and Tiara Smith work at the pop-up on Ponce De Leon Avenue. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Krispy Kreme employees (from left) Lavenus Fulton, Alondria Fulks and Tiara Smith work at the pop-up on Ponce De Leon Avenue. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

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Krispy Kreme employees (from left) Lavenus Fulton, Alondria Fulks and Tiara Smith work at the pop-up on Ponce De Leon Avenue. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

A few of the 15 pop-up employees, including Tiara Smith, worked at this same location prior to the February fire. They look forward to seeing booths filled with customers once again, while doughnuts travel down the conveyor belt, getting showered with glaze.

Smith has plenty of memories from her two years as a Krispy Kreme supervisor at this location, but one stands out especially. She pulled out her phone to show me a video she took on May 7, 2018, when they closed to customers to tape a commercial featuring Shaq giving a shoutout to chocolate glazed doughnuts. All the employees were invited to come, and they were fed a free meal.

Construction of a new building is slated for next year. The company plans to retain and refurbish some of the features of the original shop, including the iconic sign. Although a timeline is still to be worked out, District Manager Papa Seye said the shop should open sometime in 2022.

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Tiara Smith worked at the Ponce de Leon Avenue Krispy Kreme from 2017 to 2019. She recently returned to work at the temporary drive-through pop-up. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Tiara Smith worked at the Ponce de Leon Avenue Krispy Kreme from 2017 to 2019. She recently returned to work at the temporary drive-through pop-up. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

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Tiara Smith worked at the Ponce de Leon Avenue Krispy Kreme from 2017 to 2019. She recently returned to work at the temporary drive-through pop-up. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

An end date for the pop-up also is still to be determined. “Right now, we’re just excited to be back in Midtown Atlanta, serving our fresh doughnuts,” Seye said, adding that the company’s main goal in launching the pop-up during the holiday season was “to bring joy to the community.”

A dozen original glazed and an assortment of the Santa Belly, Patty Penguin, Snowman Smile and Snowy Sprinkle doughnuts seem to be doing the trick.

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