The Passing of a Corporate American Icon

Have you ever talked to someone so full of life that you just can't believe it, when they're gone? I felt that way when I heard William Rosenberg had died Friday.

You might not know the name, but I bet you know his creation -- Dunkin Donuts. And have you ever see those canteen trucks at construction and factory sites, serving snacks and coffee? Rosenberg came up with them too.

He was always doing stuff like that.

Story has it that when he was a kid during the Depression he dragged this huge block of ice to a racetrack on a hot summer day, selling off chips of ice for 10 cents a piece. He made $171 that day.

The same guy, who after World War II, cashed in his $1,500 in war bonds and borrowed another $1,000 to start a business. That business? Serving coffee, pastries and sandwiches to factory workers in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Advisers told him to keep it small and keep it simple. Just a couple of doughnuts and pastries, they said. No way, said Rosenburg. Try 52 kinds!

Times were tough, he would later say of these working class Massachusetts neighborhoods. They needed a treat.

The shops would have to smell good too. Real good. So good, that customers would stay and order more and laugh more and talk more and then order some more.

Few thought the shops would amount to much more than quaint Quincy attractions.

They were wrong. 5,000 locations and nearly 40 countries later, Dunkin' Donuts is an institution. And Rosenberg, who sold the company to British giant Allied Domecq, went on to make millions. All off a very simple concept: A warm and cozy place to have a cup of Joe, a good donut and a kind word. Such wealth in things so small.

William Rosenberg, dead at 86.

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