In 1933, Vernon Rudolph met Joe LeBeau, a French chef in New Orleans, and purchased a secret yeast-raised doughnut recipe and the copyrighted name Krispy Kreme. At the time, Rudolph was working for his uncle, who hired him to sell doughnuts door-to-door, but soon Rudolph was looking for a way to sell on a larger scale. He and various family members subsequently opened shops in Nashville, Charleston WV., and Atlanta.
Vernon Rudolph eventually settled in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He and two partners began making Krispy Kreme doughnuts and selling them out of a 1936 Pontiac with a delivery rack in the backseat. As demand for his fresh doughnuts grew, Rudolph converted his doughnut-making facility in the Old Salem area into a retail store by cutting a hole in the wall and installing a sales window. On July 13, 1937, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts opened.
As the business grew, Krispy Kreme expanded and opened new stores across the Carolinas. Each store made doughnuts in-house, which led to differences in taste and texture from store to store. In the 1940s and 1950s, Krispy Kreme standardized its product with central manufacturing of the Krispy Kreme dry mix, distributed to a growing network of doughnut and coffee shops, and invented and manufactured its doughnut-making machinery. By the 1960s, Krispy Kreme stores were visible throughout the Southeast with recognizable, green-tiled roofs, heritage road signs, and glowing neon signs touting “Hot Doughnuts Now.” These signature features helped brand the Krispy Kreme chain as stores opened outside the region.
Vernon Rudolph died in 1973 with no estate planning, forcing his family to sell Krispy Kreme. After the company was reorganized, Beatrice Foods Company purchased the firm in 1976. Many of the early franchisees were disappointed with the changes Beatrice made including changing the signage and the secret recipe to make production cheaper. In 1982, a group of early franchisees led by Joel McAleer purchased Krispy Kreme and returned the firm to independent status. McAleer immediately reverted to the original doughnut recipe and the classic road sign.
The process for a standard glazed donut is the same today as it was in the beginning. The brew is blended with yeast, mixed, and placed into a contraption that looks something like a submarine hatch. A machine adds air to the doughy concoction and spits out raw doughnuts six at a time. Those wheel-shaped pastries are then placed on a conveyor and baked for 30 minutes. Next, the conveyor moves them through hot oil (they fry for 48 seconds per side). Finally, the conveyor glides the doughnuts through a sugar-glazed waterfall. For chocolate and vanilla-covered doughnuts, workers hand-dip the pastry in a vat. Filled doughnuts are injected with jelly or creme using a needle-like implement. Cake doughnuts are made with baking powder instead of yeast. They rise faster and can be made much more quickly than other varieties.
Before this location opened, Spartanburg’s Krispy Kreme was located in what is now a parking lot near Spartanburg Regional Medical Center. In 1979, W.W. Reese passed away and his son, Glenn Reese, began managing the family business as a Krispy Kreme franchisee. Glenn Reese grew up in Spartanburg County. He worked summer jobs picking and sorting peaches and as a lifeguard at Silver Lake and Rainbow Lake. Reese graduated from Chapman High School in Inman in 1959 and earned degrees at Mars Hill Junior College and Auburn University. In 1963, he began teaching at James F. Byrnes High School and taught for 19 years there and at Pacolet, Gaffney, and Boiling Springs High Schools. He also began officiating high school basketball that year and continued to officiate for nearly 40 years. Reese also officiated games in Eastern Europe.
After a career of teaching and officiating, he decided to try politics. In 1990, at the age of 48, he ran for state senate in District 11 and won. After 30 years in the S.C. Senate, Senator Reese lost his re-election bid in 2020 and decided to retire from politics. During his time in office, Reese helped bring $60 million in grants to Spartanburg County. His Krispy Kreme store was a magnet for Democratic presidential candidates including Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden. In 2022, Reese listed the old Krispy Kreme for sale for $785,000.
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