Residents Fight to Keep Dunkin' Donuts Out of Neighborhood

"My heart dropped," she says. "I cried. I literally cried and couldn't sleep."

For more than 28 years, Sing Yam has worked seven days a week, 365 days a year and nearly 24 hours straight to keep her little doughnut shop in West Covina afloat.

But as she sees it, the might of a national chain could change everything.

"Like a big lion come and bite the little one," she says of her personal story of David and Goliath, as she looks across her counter and into a now empty parking lot.

It's is in that lot in 2017 that Dunkin’ Donuts plans to open its newest Southern California location.

"My heart dropped," she says. "I cried. I literally cried and couldn't sleep."

She says she's seen customers grow into adults and families grow, too.

"They're going to school now, they're graduating from high school, going to college, have their own kids and they bring their own kids over," she says.

West Covina City Manager Chris Freeland says the Rainbow Donut shop makes up one of the majority of businesses in the city.

"Small businesses are actually our bread and butter," Freeland says. "We have 2,300 business in West Covina, 2,200 are classified as small businesses."

But Freeland says the city doesn't have the right to tell businesses where to operate. He says the city makes available to prospective businesses a booklet of potential locations.

"We gave them a list of every single shopping center in West Covina," he says.

Dunkin' Donuts chose the South Hills Plaza, across the parking lot from Yam's Rainbow Donuts.

In a statement from Dunkin’ Donuts, the company says it works hard with local franchise owners to find the perfect location that can succeed for their business.

Daniele Natola sent the following statement to NBC4 on the upcoming opening of the store along with Baskin Robbins:

"We're looking forward to the opening of the new Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins restaurant in West Covina, which will be owned and operated by our franchisees Danny and Coby Sonenshine, brothers who are local businesspeople based in Southern California. The new restaurant will serve all of the delicious menu items guests know and love from Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, including hot and iced coffee, lattes, sandwiches, doughnuts and ice cream, all with our brands' signature fast and friendly service. Danny and Coby are looking forward to serving the West Covina community, and we hope the new restaurant becomes an important part of the daily lives of the people who live and work there. We work closely with our local franchisees to select the best sites for their restaurants, taking into account a range of factors including local demographics, traffic and the proximity to places where residents live, work and shop."

City officials say the company and the property managers are responsible for the plan to bring in the doughnut chain.

The property was recently purchased by Hong Kong-based LT Global Investment in 2014. A representative of the company says they renegotiated Rainbow Donut's lease earlier this year and has been in constant contact with the shop about what's to come in the future.

The full statement from the property manager is attributed to Wei Huang, vice president of LTG South Hills Plaza:

"We're passionate about the success of all of our tenants and are committed to helping them grow. Our goal is to provide spaces that attract quality businesses that benefit the local community. That's why we believe there is market demand for both of these restaurants to thrive as each offers a unique customer experience. We've listened intently to Rainbow's concerns and will continue to help them and all tenants attract new customers. We have also worked with the family-owned franchisee of the Dunkin’ Donuts to understand their goals when they open about one year from now. Following these discussions, it's clear to us that both can bring value and benefit to the local community."

But Yam isn't as optimistic about what the future holds with two doughnut shops in one shopping center that is nearly half-empty of its businesses.

"That's why more and more small businesses get chased out of the shopping center, because they cannot survive," she says.

Her customers have come to support her.

Dozens filed through in the late morning Wednesday to sign a petition to the city in the hopes plans to move forward could be reconsidered.

The City Manager says there could still be time as Dunkin’ Donuts has yet to submit its plan for the new building. And when that happens, residents will have a chance to voice their opposition during planning commission meetings.

In the meantime, an NBC4 viewer tweeted a response to our story to point out that the Dunkin’ Donuts location in Whittier is also in the same parking lot of a smaller, local doughnut shop called JK Donuts.

An employee at JK says they have not been affected by the chain shop saying, "We aren't worried because our doughnuts are better."

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