By JULIA MILLER
For 50 years, the sweet taste of Krispy Kreme doughnuts has infiltrated Mississippi to create warm memories and long-lasting traditions, and the Dorgan family is making sure to celebrate with all their loyal customers.
On Saturday, a family-friendly and free event will be held from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. by Krispy Kreme locations in Columbus, Gulfport, Hattiesburg and Ocean Springs. There will be doughnut dipping stations and face painting. With the purchase of a dozen doughnuts at regular price, you get a second dozen for just 50 cents. The Hattiesburg store will also include a visit from Seymour, the University of Southern Mississippi’s mascot, as well as other ambassadors from the school.
In 1967, Billy Dorgan Sr. made a move from Alabama to Biloxi, Mississippi, to open Mississippi’s very first Krispy Kreme.
“After returning from serving during the Vietnam War, Joe McAleer offered me an opportunity to work in the family business, and we opened the first location of Krispy Kreme in the state of Mississippi on the beach in Biloxi,” said Dorgan, owner of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in Mississippi.
But Dorgan’s first experience with the donut business and Krispy Kreme went back nearly a decade earlier, when he, as a teenager, lived next door to his future father-in-law near Mobile Bay in Point Clear, Alabama. McAleer recruited him for the 4 a.m. shift of rolling out the doughnuts by hand.
McAleer worked closely with Krispy Kreme’s founder Vernon Rudolph since the 1950s, and he eventually was able to open shops throughout the state of Alabama. After Dorgan’s return to the U.S., that opportunity was shared by bringing Krispy Kreme to Mississippi.
“Since that day I have seen my children and grandchildren begin working in our shops and that is something I never could have imagine when we first opened our doors,” Dorgan said.
Billy Dorgan Jr., son of Dorgan Sr. and grandson of McAleer, grew up surrounded by donuts.
“At 10, 11, 12, I remember riding along with my dad to the store,” he said. “Just being taught the basic fundamentals of work ethic. I developed a passion for the iconic brand Krispy Kreme.”
Over the years, the Dorgan family is not the only ones who have stayed in the donut business, but McAleer uncles and cousins continue to own and operate stores throughout Alabama and Georgia.
“What Joe McAleer did for the brand was incredible,” Dorgan Jr. said. “I can’t say the word servant enough. I believe he was a man who knew his calling was to serve people, and he did that through Krispy Kreme.”
In the 1970s after Rudolph died, Beatrice Foods purchased the company. Many associate owners didn’t agree with the new direction the franchise began taking, and McAleer helped band the others together to buy back the company. At that point, McAleer became the president and CEO of Krispy Kreme in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
“We have been tremendously blessed by the opportunity provided from him,” Dorgan Jr. said. “He made a very good business decision for his family.”
For Dorgan Jr., who operates the Hattiesburg store, working in the family business always seemed like the natural step.
“I remember working the drive through in Biloxi and having fun. It didn’t feel like work,” he said.
After playing football as a placekicker at Delta State University, he returned to Krispy Kreme.
“Over the last eight years, the Good Lord has shown that this is a God-ordained ministry for me,” he said. “It’s a unique opportunity to serve the people and community where we live. I like that we’re able to create magical moments for our customers.”
When you think about all the ways culture and technology have changed over the past 50 years, it’s hard to imagine the same hasn’t been true for Krispy Kreme. Dorgan admitted that how they serve people has changed, such as the introduction of the iconic neon “HOT” light introduced in the 1970s.
“There’s one thing that hasn’t changed — the donut,” he said. “The Krispy Kreme original glaze recipe is the same as when Vernon [Rudolph] opened Krispy Kreme 80 years ago.”
One aspect of the donut business that has recently seen a revival is the return to a shared cup of coffee in the store.
“I can remember all those ceramic mugs, and those regulars would come in and talk about life,” he said. “That kind of faded for a bit, but what do we do now? We sit around, drink coffee, and talk about life.”
This shared camaraderie has been Dorgan Jr.’s favorite tradition at Krispy Kreme, a tradition he hopes to see continue for many more years.