- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2000

The mystique behind Krispy Kreme doughnuts always has eluded its share of less-than-passionate followers.
Not everyone enjoys the sugary, yeast-raised doughnuts with their white glazing, the glitzy red neon signs or the 1950s Formica decor of its Route 1 outpost south of Alexandria.
Some prefer its drive-through competitors, which seem more commercial and franchised, even though Krispy Kreme has a Web site and 154 stores across the country. (Dunkin' Donuts stores, on the other hand, number in the thousands.)
Krispy Kreme only began marketing its own line of T-shirts and hats about four years ago, says general manager Son Q. Che.
Giant Food stores now carry Krispy Kreme products.
Yet Krispy Kreme, which opened its first branch in what is now the Old Salem neighborhood of Winston-Salem, N.C., in 1937 is a cultural icon: Three years ago, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History accepted about four dozen artifacts and archival material into its collection. (The company headquarters even has its own minister of culture.)
Krispy Kreme has been featured in episodes of "ER," "NYPD Blue" and "3rd Rock From the Sun," but although it has spread beyond its Dixie roots to be found as far west as California, it still has that Southern appeal.
The smell of jelly, powder and dough whacks you as soon as you hit the parking lot. The red-neon "Hot Doughnuts Now" sign is a classic, and it is company policy to have it lighted between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
"For this shop, you can walk in anytime and get a hot doughnut," Mr. Che says proudly, noting that his output of 15,000 to 20,000 doughnuts a day is second only to that of the Winston-Salem headquarters. "We've got more production than any shop in the company. I guarantee you," he says.
And how can one resist that wide picture window? Like looking in on Santa's workshop, you can see Krispy Kreme employees scurrying about the mixers and conveyor belts. You also can see a parade of the doughy, ringed morsels as they bob along in a bath of murky brown oil.
This process is yours for the viewing every Wednesday at 10 a.m. by special appointment.
"My name is Quami, and I will be taking you guys around," shouts Quami Addi-Mensah, a native of Ghana who has worked here 10 years. He's talking to a group of two dozen children and their moms from Centreville. ("It smells like dirty diapers in here," yells one youngster.)
In the middle of the factory, near the front, three aproned, hair-netted women take turns jamming shells into a spike jutting from a machine.
It spits out an amount of cream or jelly from a jug of filling suspended above the machine, with a keypad that digitally allots how much filling goes into each shell.
Another woman stands in front of a vat of cream, chocolate and other flavors and carefully dips the doughnuts in their special toppings.
First, however, the process begins with a 14-minute mix of 100 pounds of flour, yeast and water into a 1-ton Hobart Mixer. (The machines can last about 25 years.)
The dough is poured into a vat with six prongs that squirt out the doughnuts into their familiar shapes. (The machine can turn out about 600 dozen doughnuts an hour if run to capacity.)
The doughnuts then are rolled by belt through a Plexiglas booth with six rows of floor-to-ceiling, slow-moving racks designed to speed up the rising process.
Then, in front of the picture window, the doughnuts slide along in a vat of frying oil, cooking 60 seconds before passing under a metal belt that turns the doughnuts over.
"I used to work at a doughnut shop," says Pam Kearns, one of the moms. "We had to flip them by hand with drumsticks. This is pretty intense."
Finally, the doughnuts slide onto another conveyor belt and through a sheet of icing. (The drippings on the floor look like stalagmites.) From there, the doughnuts continue on an intricate path of conveyer belts for 30 minutes for the glazing to dry.
In the back, a similar process works for cake doughnuts and doughnut holes. ("We call them 'nibbles,' " says Mr. Addi-Mensah.) Here, in this building, the doughnuts also are wrapped, boxed and delivered to area stores.
Mr. Che says his store has retail sales of about $38,000 a week. He joined Krispy Kreme in 1975 and worked at the Route 7 store in Falls Church until it closed in 1979.
He has 150 people who work here, 50 in each of three shifts even in the middle of the night to keep up with demand.
"It's hard to find good people," says Mr. Che, citing low unemployment statistics. "But of our people, 90 percent of them have more than five years here. We're like family."

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