Gird your loins. A new invasion is storming Iceland’s shores, and this time it’s far more fearsome than Viking longboats. This time it’s… sprinkles.
That’s right, located just 21 steps (I counted) from the historically accurate trolls on Laugavegur, six neon Pepto-Bismol-pink window displays announce the imminent arrival of “America’s Favourite” breakfast chain, Dunkin Donuts.
Translation: “Opening Soon” Bum bum bum.
After a quick glance inside at the bare concrete floors and circular saws inside, it appears Dunkin Donuts’ conquest is still a few weeks away. However, tourists and locals alike already have plenty to say about Iceland’s newest (and potentially largest) international chain.
Surveying passers-by, I don’t know what I expected—shock, anger, confusion—but the initial reactions I got were surprisingly… positive.
“Everybody loves donuts,” declared Sóley and María, age 19. The native Icelanders went on to simply say, “It’s a good thing. There are not many donut stores in Iceland.”
Shortly after, I witnessed two guys literally skidding to a halt after seeing the blazing pink signs. When asked why, Brazilian tourists Andrea and Diego gushed their enthusiasm. “We love Dunkin Donuts, but we don’t have it in Brazil.” Andrea continued, “we only eat it when we travel.”
Obviously the reactions weren’t all positive, especially from the local contingent. One passer-by simply yelled, “It’s disgusting.” Online, the rejection was similarly heartfelt.
Local music legend Krummi Björgvinsson (of Mínus, Döpur, Legend and more) posted a Facebook photo of himself and artistic collaborator/significant other Linnea Hellström in front of Dunkin Donuts’ newly erected signage, thumbs emphatically down (see above).
Krummi’s caption reads,: “We strongly disapprove of the conglomerate uprising in Reykjavík!” At the time of this writing, over 500 people have expressed agreement with the musician’s sentiment.
When I followed up, Krummi elaborated: “It’s like these Icelandic Gordon Gekkos open up businesses to tap into the tourist market, but what they don’t understand is that most tourists come here for the Icelandic culture, not some Western consumerism.”
Obviously people are for and against Dunkin Donuts, but the bigger question remains: How is this going to affect local business? For answers I literally walked across the street to cafe/bar Kofinn, for a chat with manager, Gunnhildur Erla Davíðsdóttir, about the competition and the changing face of Reykjavik:
“I think tourists actually create life here,” Gunnhildur begins. She would know. Gunnhildur has worked at Kofinn for over three years and has seen the effects of initiatives like “Summer Streets,” where parts of Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur have been temporarily closed to automobiles.
Kofinn manager, Gunnhildur Erla Davíðsdóttir
When asked if she thinks Dunkin Donuts will prove difficult competition for Kofinn, she seemed unimpressed. “We’re not worried at all,” she explains,“Dunkin Donuts is different. They have flavoured coffee.” She points to the bar behind her, “plus, we’re more into the whole happy hour thing. And we sell sushi,” she laughs. “Our regulars will keep coming to us.”
Personally, I love that I haven’t seen a Starbucks in weeks, so seeing a Dunkin Donuts pop up where I thought I was finally safe from its corporate grasp terrifies me to my very core. Gunnhildur is also aware of the corporate trend, but seems to welcome the growth.
“I expect craziness, of course,” she concedes. “There will be a huge line, but I’m excited to see… you know… everything.”
So are we, Gunnhildur. So are we.
The battle for the future of Iceland continues, but with invaders armed with sprinkles, Reykjavik city streets might look a lot pinker.
For tons of information on the subject, read John Rogers’ extensive article on Dunkin Donuts in Iceland.
Main photo by Krummi, courtesy of his Facebook. Other photos by Shawn Forno.