P&Z Approves Dunkin Donuts’ Move to South & Elm


The future home of Dunkin Donuts, at 44 Elm St. in New Canaan. Credit: Michael Dinan

The Planning & Zoning Commission last week approved a proposal from Dunkin Donuts to move from its current location on Elm Street down to the intersection at South Avenue. 

P&Z during a regular meeting held June 28 voted 9-0 in favor of a site plan application for 44 Elm St., former site of the CBD Store.

The new location will double the coffee shop’s space in a newly designed interior with windows overlooking two streets, according to Jim Cain, representing the applicant. 

“Basically just continue 25 years of awesome service in the town of New Canaan which we’ve had the pleasure of doing business there,” Cain told members of P&Z.

Commission Chair John Goodwin, Secretary Krista Neilson and members Kent Turner, Dick Ward, John Kriz, Claire Tiscornia, John Engel, James Basch and Paul Knag voted in favor of the application. Commissioners Dan Radman, Arthur Casevant and Chris Hering were absent.

P&Z members asked Cain and owner’s rep Paul Stone what happened to plans to move across Elm to a commercial space next to the Playhouse (there was a need to increase the power capability there which scuttled that plan), what will happen with mezzanine level that had been in the CBD Store (it will be demolished), whether the basement will be open to the public (no), whether the fit-out will be ADA-compliant (yes), how the exterior door to South Avenue will be used (for deliveries), whether customers will use that door (no customers will come and go from Elm Street), what sort of illumination will be used (it will conform to the Planning & Zoning Regulations), whether there will be outdoor seating (that will be planned in the future) and how the store will get rid of its garbage (there will be multiple pickups during the day by way of the South Avenue door). 

Commissioners also urged Cain to use tasteful sandwich boards and ensure the area around the store is clean.

It wasn’t immediately clear just how quickly the interior prep work would get done or when Dunkin Donuts is expected to make the move. 

Engel asked whether anyone had studied anticipated traffic patterns on Elm Street as a result of the move of Dunkin Donuts, “one of the most visited stores in the entire downtown.”

“I just suspect we will be having more cars coming from two directions to Dunkin Donuts as opposed to one as a result of this move,” Engel said.

Goodwin answer that he was certain a traffic study hadn’t been done given that the applicant was making a site plan application, and that it will be “interesting to see what happens, but of the site plan we just have to wait and see.”

14 thoughts on “P&Z Approves Dunkin Donuts’ Move to South & Elm

  1. Darien gets Flour Water Salt and we get a Dunkin expansion on to South and Elm? How tacky! Why not put an Ambercrombie complete with perfume mister to coat our olfactory senses for generations to come? I’m sure future Elm Restaurant patrons will be thrilled to sip a glass of $18 Sauvignon Blanc whilst looking at the ubiquitous pink & orange donut signage. Our town leadership has lost the plot!

    • I assume that your thought was meant to be satirical right? BTW the hoity- toity clients of Elm Restaurant sipping their $18 Sauvignon Blancs can already see the current Dunkin Donuts. Darien also happens to have a Dunk with even a bigger footprint and a parking lot. I used to find it convenient when I went to Brooks Brothers for my custom shirts.
      Instead of ridicule Dunkin Donuts deserves praise for being a good citizen of the New Canaan community. During the height of Covid when things looked most bleak DD brought a sense of normalcy by remaining open throughout. From 5 a.m. on the employees worked their tails off at great personal risk to insure that the folks of NC had hot coffee. For that I will always be grateful and will always support them.

      • Respectfully, I disagree with you.
        Dunkin would be better suited to the Mobil Station & it’s parking lot. Though, I do agree that the people who actually serve the coffee and donuts are very nice, but none of those nice people who serve the mediocre donuts actually live in New Canaan, unless they live with their parents.

        Also— Richard— custom shirts at Brooks Brothers? That’s the very definition of “hoity toity”.

        New Canaan can do better than a Dunkin expansion. Personally, I would utilize our downtown if there were more vibrant, small businesses to support. I think big corporate chains are ill suited to a family town, like New Canaan. Starbucks & Le Pain are more than enough.

        This is really a question of who can afford the exorbitant rents that land lords in New Canaan ask. It’s very sad that small businesses and the people who love them suffer. Our town can do better.

        • I actually love the Dunkies logo colors AND their iced coffee. Hope they sort out the outside seating—isn’t there a squad of old-timers who meets up there every day?

          • I love promoting small, family run businesses without dubious political connections— iced or hot!! New Canaan P&Z needs to check it’s head.

  2. Coffee shops like Dunkin’ are traffic builders for all the retail establishments. Their company colors may stand out a bit from the background, but like it or not, they are classic Americana now.

  3. Betsy, I’m with you. Town would be better served with an establishment more interesting than this on one of it’s gateway corners. I too feel New Canaan has lost its way in the Commercial District on many levels. I find Mr Goodwins response very telling. I and others are working to change what we see is a lack of good thinking.

  4. I have a soft spot for Dunkin because they were just about the only place in town for a long time for restrooms, a critical amenity when you have small children. They are a New England institution, which those from New York may not appreciate. Plus, their coffee is smoother than Starbuck’s.

  5. I’m curious what, if any, proactive measures the town (or landlords?) take towards attracting new business tenants? For instance, there are a lot of great small businesses, chefs, etc in NYC who frankly don’t know New Canaan even exists. Are we doing all we can to let them know about our many empty retail spaces? I’m sure there is a cool clothing designer in Brooklyn at this very moment dreaming of opening a shop somewhere and has no idea Garelick and Herbs has been sitting empty for years. Or a talented sous chef in at 11 Madison Park looking to take the next step who would go nuts if they learned about the empty Thali space on Main Street. That corner spot on Elm/South has been basically vacant more often than not the past several years. Was Dunkees the only one interested in it simply because they’re already up the street? Or is there a cool art supply store looking for a home unawares? Btw, I agree with Toddy – Dunkin’s coffee outranks Starbucks.

  6. I also want to mention our unique, successful and merchant run cafe ‘Dolce’. It is exactly the type of operations we wish to attack beyond the mundane chain experience. These unique places with owner merchants often present are what makes New Canaan a destination. . A great build out was done at ‘Dolce’ ( so important) and beyond the great coffee a good food and drink menu is in place. You can even relax in the outdoor seating and enjoy, the current craze, a European Spritz . That is what a hands on operation does better than a chain..adapt faster and offer what a community is looking for.

    New Canaan is still rich with many unique merchant run business. Currently we have had some notable and knowledgeable galleries come in. In my commercial real estate work I recently placed two needed operations. One a hair salon, ‘Luscious’ run by two gifted entrepreneurs that are offering among other things the service of hair extensions which brings clients to our town from other far flung areas. . I do believe New Canaan offers unique advantages as it always has to ‘Merchant’ run businesses. We have however solvable barriers that are keeping good business people away, ie poor parking, poor mix of store sizes, at times non functional rents and high in town real estate taxes which the merchant ultimately pays for starters. The great benefit of a wider offering of goods and services to local Town residents is achieved by encouraging the past formula of finding strong well run profitable businesses that are merchant run and can bring clients in from surrounding areas due to their uniqueness.

    • Based on all of the vacant retail space it does not appear that “merchant owners” are flocking to New Canaan to open new business ventures. I am happy that chains like Dunkin are filling space and filling a need for the community. BTW The Dunk espresso is not only cheaper but also better tasting than Dulce’s.

    • Dolce is fantastic, the galleries are fantastic, and also having some recognizable, reliable brands like Dunkin are fantastic. My kids happen to love it and their iced coffee is pretty good and, as a bonus, well priced. I for one think a mix of shops and stores is great for our downtown.

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