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Local Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee talks about growth and job impacts

By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA

Teknovation Weekend readers will remember the teknovation.biz feature focused on Petro’s Chili and Chips, a local business that offers franchise opportunities. This week, we interviewed Dave Baumgartner, a business owner based in Knoxville who operates 66 Dunkin’ Donuts through his company Bluemont Group, LLC.

Baumgartner first moved to Knoxville to work for Anderson News, a now-defunct magazine distributor. Around the same time, Dunkin’ had been bought out by a private equity group that was aiming to push the brand nationally, Baumgartner said.

“That industry went away with the internet,” he said of Anderson News. “I looked at franchising as a way to mitigate risk.”

Bluemont Group was formed in November 2008. Since then, Baumgartner has opened 66 Dunkin’ locations. A majority of the stores are spread between Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, but he also has locations in Birmingham, Alabama; Georgia; and Kansas City. His company is opening an additional 13 stores this year. “We’re planning on growing substantially,” Baumgartner said.

Three more stores are possibly opening this year as well, depending on supply chain issues. He commented that delivery times for supplies have been getting longer.

Throughout the 66 stores currently in operation, Baumgartner has 1,200 employees. While many of the jobs are entry-level positions, he said he employs around 200 people in permanent career positions. Nine of those team members are Baumgartner’s store opening crew. When Bluemont Group opens a new location, that team is charged with opening the store, as well as hiring and training new staff members.

After working in an industry that was shrinking, Baumgartner said it is exciting to move to one that has continued to grow over the last 12 years. Building a team and providing jobs has been his favorite part of being a Dunkin’ franchisee. He added that despite having a larger pool of entry-level staff, not all the jobs are low paying.

“It’s been very gratifying,” he said. “We’ve built something and we’re proud of it.”

Joining Dunkin’ when the brand was starting to expand nationally, has been a benefit for Baumgartner. When he first started, there was only one location in Knoxville, but none in either Chattanooga or the Tri-Cities area. He said that if he had gone with a fast-food chain that already had a national presence, he wouldn’t have been able to expand in the same way. He would have had to grow by acquisition. The “opportunities wouldn’t exist because they’re already built out,” Baumgartner said.

Instead, Baumgartner is expanding with the Dunkin’ brand. He added he prefers to go into markets where he has the opportunity to expand and build more stores. In Atlanta, for example, there are several other Dunkin’ franchisees in the area. While they don’t compete head-to-head, it doesn’t allow for the same expansion Baumgartner is looking for. When Baumgartner first looked into Kansas City, on the other hand, there were only a few stores there.

“We’re looking for emerging markets as opposed to established markets,” he said. In Kansas City, there are “virtually no stores built, and it’s a sizable city that we felt like we could come in and expand.”

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