By TIM GRANT, Times Staff Writer
CARROLLWOOD -- How long would you wait for a Krispy Kreme doughnut?
Seven hours, if you're Adam Locke or Bob Lohr. The two University of South Florida students say they spent a night on the sidewalk so they could be the very first customers at the bakery chain's 5 a.m. debut on Tuesday at 11790 N Dale Mabry Highway.
"We had some McDonald's food, a deck of cards and a radio," said Locke, 20. "We didn't sleep.'
Camping out for concert tickets is one thing. But doughnuts?
"I'm hard core," said Milo Pirello, who was third in line. "I can eat a whole box in a day. I might not feel too good after that, but it's worth every bit of pain."
The store's grand opening was a testament to the fanatical fascination people have for the hot glazed doughnuts, which will now be rolling off a conveyer belt in Carrollwood 24 hours a day. Feeding the frenzy was a promise that would tempt any sweet tooth: a year's supply of doughnuts for the very first customers.
Motorists slept in the drive-through lane. Predawn visitors rejoiced in festivities that included music by the Blake High School Band. A basset hound named Woody E. Donuts, the store mascot, wore a red button that flashed "Hot Doughnuts Now."
As Locke and Lohr mugged for the cameras and accepted their prizes, Pirello had the honor of tasting the store's first hot glazed doughnut. He described it as "succulent," and "funky fried fantastic."
Young Timmy Gillman put it more simply.
"These doughnuts are the best," said the 9-year-old, who woke up at 4 a.m. and dragged his mother to the new store.
Based in Winston-Salem, N.C., Krispy Kreme is a longtime Southern staple, with a presence in Tampa since 1952. Rising profits and revenues have fueled an expansion that will include Brandon and New Tampa as well.
This, in spite of a core product with about as many calories and fat grams as a fast-food hamburger (but less cholesterol).
Mark Gauthier, Krispy Kreme's Tampa president and co-owner of the Carrollwood store, said the new shop is a company showcase. It has doughnut-shaped mood lights, and is decorated with vintage Krispy Kreme photographs and artwork showing the evolution of the company in a combination of bold and muted colors.
A glass viewing area allowed Tuesday's customers to see how the dough is mixed and cut. After being baked in a glass oven for 35 minutes, the doughnuts dance along in hot frying oil, then slide into a white waterfall of sugary glaze.
"People are super excited we finally brought Krispy Kreme to this community," Gauthier said. "We believe it will be a hub for the community. A place to come enjoy coffee and doughnuts in a happy, wholesome place."
It also will offer coffees and frozen beverages not sold at the other two locations, such as the Original Creme Frozen Blend. Gauthier's wife, Laura Gauthier, said the drink tastes like biting into a hot glazed doughnut.
"Whereas our doughnut is a bite of heaven, the original creme is a sip of heaven," she said.
Dayle Greene, a radio show host for WPOI-FM in St. Petersburg, said he saw a notice on the store opening before he left work early Tuesday and decided to stop by on his way home to north Tampa.
"This is a real treat," said Greene, who ordered a coffee and two glazed doughnuts.
"When I come I doubt if I'll vary from that order," he said. "That's pretty standard for me. I'll take two doughnuts home for my wife. . . . On second thought, make that one and a half."
-- Tim Grant can be reached at 269-5311 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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