Steve Decosta writes in South Coast Today.com to prepare for the apocalypse: Dunkin’ Donuts is under construction in Marion.
The old L’Auberge restaurant on Route 6 has been demolished and the foundation poured for the new doughnut shop.
Ever since Fernando Sardinha first proposed the franchised coffee shop in 2000, Marionites have predicted it would bring the inevitable demise of their bucolic community. Their opposition has been long and loud.
“The character of Marion will be forever changed, and not for the better, if you allow chain restaurants to come in,” resident Winifred Sylvia said during a Planning Board hearing in April 2007. “I’d hate to see that happen. This is such a beautiful town.”
“Please keep (Marion) charming and beautiful and don’t ruin it like Wareham or Fairhaven,” said C.C. Dyer, the former Mrs. Geraldo Rivera, who grew up in Marion.
The opposition remains adamant that the presence of a fast-food chain will change the character of their community, but that argument is moot in the face of a court decision to allow the new business, complete with a drive-through window.
“A lot of Marion people don’t want to see the town change at all,” said Larry Bidstrup, retired after teaching at Tabor Academy for 43 years. “They resent any change.”
But that resentment has been muted by the economic downturn that’s affected even upper-crust Marion.
“Maybe this will bring a little revenue to town,” Bidstrup said.
“If we get a few more cars driving through, that’s good for everybody,” said 60-year-old C.J. Hebard. “It might generate a little more cash.”
“It’s nice to see the property maintained” after more than a decade of blight, Hebard said. And it’s flanked by two other abandoned parcels: a former gas station across the street and the former hardware store-ice cream shop at the corner of Route 6 and Spring Street.
“What’s the image of Marion, abandoned buildings?” he asked.
Building Commissioner Richard W. Marx said he sees a 50-50 split among townspeople. As for himself, “I certainly don’t see it as the end of the world in Marion.”
Marx said the new building will blend in well with its surroundings. “It’s not an orange and pink building,” he said, but a black and tan wooden structure with a widow’s walk that looks as much like a house as a fast-food operation.
And he doesn’t see it as serious competition for Uncle Jon’s, which has been serving up java in Marion for 20 years. “It’s two different markets,” he said. “I think the people who wanted Dunkin’ Donuts just went down the street to Wareham. Now it will be a little closer for them.”
Michelle Pope, owner of Uncle Jon’s, admits to a little concern but figures her customers will remain loyal.
“We’re in touch with our customer base,” she said. “We support the community. We’re more about the community, more about the environment, more about our product. And when was the last time you walked into a Dunkin’ Donuts and got to talk to the owner?”
“This is my place,” Bidstrup said while sipping a coffee and reading a newspaper in Uncle Jon’s. “I’ll keep coming here. I’m comfortable here.
“But there are people who just want to drive through, and this will be good for them.”