In honor of the closure of Nassau Street’s Dunkin’, I’m taking a trip down memory lane. For the first-years who never even knew this Dunkin’ once existed, let me enlighten you: This Dunkin’ did not have particularly good coffee or stellar customer service. It wasn’t always tasty or pleasant. It didn’t have the local charm of Small World or the customizability of Starbucks. But it was always there for you. And it was always the cheapest option.
It is not a controversial statement to say that Dunkin’ is the least consistent of popular coffee chains, but part of the thrill of going is the eternal question of whether you will get something akin to river water or an addictively delicious beverage. On the customer service front, the Nassau Street Dunkin’s espresso machine would frequently break; one time, they realized this after I paid. I spent the day exchanging phone calls and emails with Dunkin’ corporate to obtain a refund because they could not issue one in the store, much to my surprise and confusion. Oh, Dunkin’, how I miss the way you toyed with my emotions.
Starbucks, Sakrid, Small World, Coffee Club … I love you, but you never fail to put a sizable dent in my wallet. Meanwhile, at Dunkin’, I could get an absurdly-sized iced coffee and a donut or bagel for the price of a small latte elsewhere. Dunkin’ became the fuel for my most work-heavy days because it was the only place where I could be sufficiently caffeinated. Come midterms and Dean’s Date, I am sure I will not be the only one missing the Nassau Street Dunkin’.
The Nassau Street Dunkin’ was also the site of many of my earliest Princeton memories. In February of my senior year of high school, I came up to Princeton for Tiger Tuesday as a newly accepted student. I remember getting a coffee from Dunkin’ to stay warm as I spent the day battling the chilly winter weather while touring the campus. In March 2020, during my first year, my dad and I stopped at the Nassau Street Dunkin’ to grab a quick breakfast before we began our drive home all the way down the Eastern Seaboard to Florida. It did not dawn on us until a few weeks later that this was our last “normal” meal before the coronavirus lockdown: a hasty pre-road trip breakfast consisting of coffee for me, tea for my dad, and a bagel for both of us.
Throughout my first two years at the University, the Nassau Street Dunkin’ was a behind-the-scenes contributor to my college experience. I’ve had both good and bad times there, and it has caffeinated me through my longest nights at Firestone. I will greatly miss having Dunkin’ in my coffee rotation, whether it’s because I don’t feel like spending more than four dollars on coffee or because I feel like playing coffee roulette. Dunkin’ was never the best, and occasionally it wasn’t even open during regular business hours, but it was there for me during my first two years of Princeton, and for that, I will be eternally grateful.
Now, when I walk past the storefront where Dunkin’ used to stand, I can’t help but feel confused about who let it close; surely, it must have filled a market gap in the local coffee scene. What value will the new shop add to Nassau Street? More importantly, will the new shop keep its current door handles in the shape of a “D” as an homage to Dunkin’? Although Dunkin’ no longer stands, I am still reminded of its memory every time I walk on Nassau Street. I look forward to seeing how its successor, a boba tea shop, compares to the New England staple that it has replaced.
Lauren Fromkin is a contributing writer to the Prospect at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @laurenfromkin.