Hot Light is on as Krispy Kreme celebrates 75 years - FOX Carolina 21

Hot Light is on as Krispy Kreme celebrates 75 years

Posted: Updated: July 12, 2012 08:17 AM
Krispy Kreme doughnuts roll through glaze at a local shop. (File/FOX Carolina) Krispy Kreme doughnuts roll through glaze at a local shop. (File/FOX Carolina)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Krispy Kreme doughnuts have quite a history in the Carolinas.

This week, the company celebrates its 75th anniversary. With almost 700 stores in 21 countries around the world, it's come a long way from the wholesale shop first brought to Winston-Salem, NC, in 1937.

Its founder, Vernon Rudolph, came south because that's where his favorite cigarettes were made. His son, Sandy, said Vernon first tried to open a shop in Peoria, IL, but as soon as he saw how many bakeries were in the town, he wanted to try elsewhere.

Sandy Rudolph said when Vernon pulled out his Camel cigarettes and saw they were made in Winston-Salem, he moved his staff there. Sandy Rudolph said his father worked hard, especially when, as a young man, the owner of the building he tried to lease wouldn't let him at first.

"No telling what they were wearing," said Sandy Rudolph, "and they had that Kentucky accent, and he said no. He turned my dad down. So they walked outside and the owner of the space said, did you buy that brand new Pontiac station wagon from selling doughnuts? He said, ‘Yes, I did.' [The owner] said, ‘I'll lease you the space.'"

That wholesale doughnut shop on Main Street in Old Salem soon had the doughnut scent wafting into the streets, and customers stopped to buy fresh doughnuts before they were sent to stores.

Ten years later, Vernon Rudolph began to expand, creating more shops.

The first shop in Greenville was one of Krispy Kreme's first five stores. It opened on Cleveland Street in 1946, because Rudolph had family and friends in the area. It eventually moved to Augusta Street, which is where retired doughnut maker Shelby Bittman, of Greenville, started working in 1986.

"We used to do [the doughnuts] by hand," said Bittman. "They would cut them out, take them off with their fingers, drop them into the shortening, and we'd have to go in at two o'clock in the morning and work till we got all the work done."

Bittman worked with Linda Freeman, who still works the doughnut line at the Pleasantburg Road shop.

"We used to give out free," said Freeman. "Give them a doughnut, welcome them into the shop, people used to love that. They seemed like they didn't mind waiting when you used to do that."

Both ladies enjoyed watching the stores progress, but remember the good old days with bar stools near the register. They said a regular group would sit around the bar drinking coffee and swapping stories.

But it's back in Winston Salem where every Krispy Kreme doughnut in the world gets its start. The secret recipe is kept in a safe, inside a safe.

Every week, 2-3 million pounds of the special recipe mix is packaged and shipped across the globe.

Brian Little, communications director for Krispy Kreme, said the company's history and mission has spoken particularly to the Carolinas over the years.

Little said, "It says, friendship, wholesome, says family. I think that's why folks in the south love us so much, we love them too."

Copyright 2012 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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