December 19, 2017

Krispy Kreme’s Pivot To Charlotte Brings Back Memories Of Wachovia

Though Winston has bulldozed many buildings over the years, it has its share of old buildings still standing. That’s something that Charlotte-the land of modern skyscrapers and endless generic condos can’t say.

Winston’s urban landscape tells a story. Take the Hilltop House Apartments on the corner of Cherry Street and Brookstown Avenue. The original building was a motel that opened in 1961.

The Hilltop House Apartments were redeveloped by Bud Baker in 2011. Baker took an old motel and transformed it into pricey apartments. Later, two additional buildings were added to the original 1961 property that was a motel (known by various names) for decades.

The Hilltop House Apartments were developed in part with the golden parachute that Bud Baker, the former CEO of Wachovia got when he agreed to let First Union purchase Wachovia. The 2001 merger of equals banking giants created the fourth-largest U.S. bank at the time.

Reading through past newspaper accounts of the merger, many observers at the time thought that Wachovia should have stayed an independent bank (as its smaller rival BB&T did successfully). Wachovia shareholders weren’t given much of a premium for their stock. But Bud Baker received a generous golden parachute. In the end that appears to be the motivation for Wachovia’s demise.

When the deal went through the name Wachovia was condemned to the history books. The city lost both a Fortune 500 company and its hometown bank. Many workers were laid off or forced into retirement.

Looking at the Hilltop House Apartments with the Wachovia Building (call it the Wells Fargo Building if you like) in the background one can see the transition from Bud Baker CEO to Bud Baker despised former CEO and developer. The green, former motel roof is a reminder of First Union.

As Krispy Kreme pivots to Charlotte, the loss of approximately 90 corporate Krispy Kreme jobs hurts. But Winston has suffered far worse corporate defections in recent decades.

Besides as local historian, Fam Brownlee has documented, Krispy Kreme doughnuts weren’t invented in Winston. Krispy Kreme never built a proper headquarters in Winston, as they planned to do years ago.

If Krispy Kreme had ever built the headquarters that it planned back in 2003, then the city would be sadder to see Krispy Kreme turn away from its home city.

Despite the popularity of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Camel City never became Krispy Kreme City. Winston was never associated with Krispy Kreme the way that it was and is associated with cigarettes.

If Krispy Kreme had built a doughnut factory/museum, something akin to the Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, then people would associate Winston with Krispy Kreme. But that never progressed past rumors.

Krispy Kreme moving jobs out of the city hurts, but its nothing compared to the job losses that the city suffered in the 1990s and 2000s.

Krispy Kreme’s restructuring is yet another example that corporate jobs are not something that can be counted on. No matter how many tax breaks and subsidies a corporation is given, a local community can never buy the loyalty of a corporation, we can only rent them.

 

 

 

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