A Dunkin’ in a suburban Florida city is one of the rare ones in the chain that has its inside open 24/7, which has created its subculture.
Vlad the Third Dracula only comes out at twinkle of nightfall. He doesn’t go to pillage for a pint of blood, he’s too sophisticated for that. He heads down to the one place that will tickle his ever biting taste buds, Dunkin’.
Normally, you wouldn’t hear a lot of strange things go down at a Dunkin’, but there is one location on the doorsteps of Mickey Mouse that has found a way of creating its nighttime subculture, including luring a certain Count Dracula to its bright light every night.
During the day, this Dunkin’ fits nice and snuggly within the suburban enclave of Altamonte Springs, Florida along its busiest (i.e., traffic-clogged) route — State Road 436. It fronts the sprawling AdventHealth Hospital, and it looks just as nondescript as any other Dunkin’ in the Orlando region, with regulars straggling in for their morning coffee and fresh donuts, and keeping a steady flow of coffee-deprived customers throughout the day.
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The daytime customer makeup seems normal, but when the sun sinks into the Central Florida landscape, the “regulars” are replaced by the “nighttime regulars,” and that’s when, in the words of the 80s rap group Whodini, the freaks truly come out at night.
That’s what I certainly thought when I first started coming to that Dunkin’.
Back then, it was called Dunkin’ Donuts, and this store has been around for what seems like an eternity. I met a nurse who worked at the hospital when I first started coming up in 2016, and she told me that when she first started working for the hospital in 1979, that Dunkin’ was there. Back then, it served soups and bread in addition to the coffee and donuts the chain would later become famous for.
Then, 13 years later, Count Dracula would come to Seminole County, and in a lot of ways, this Dunkin’ would never be the same.
Count Dracula first started coming to this Dunkin when he needed a new hangout spot. It just so happened that, when he relocated to Altamont Springs from Orlando, he encountered a Dunkin’ that was a rarity within the chain — one that was open 24 hours, inside.
So, he started coming, and his legend on this strip of sun-baked asphalt grew, and along with it came a whole host of new characters, mostly for the better, and some for the worst. With this Dunkin being open 24 hours, you would expect that the store would encounter its own set of unsavory characters. Drunks, drug addicts who talk/fight with themselves, and hospital dischargees who may or may not carry a sterling record of civility.
I’ve seen all of this in the three years I started coming to this Dunkin’.
It’s almost like the store was creating its subculture, a surreal one that can’t be located anywhere else. For the record, I’ve been to a multitude of fast-food outlets at all-times of the day, but none of them comes close to the fascinating world the Altamonte Springs Dunkin’ has created for itself.
It’s a world in which Count Dracula could thrive within the doldrums of what we constantly refer to as “normal life.” Dracula has never sucked the blood out of anyone while coming to Dunkin. He arrives every night around midnight, unpacks his provisions, and keeps himself entertained for the night. I’ll admit when I first started to come to the Altamonte Dunkin, I was a little freaked out by him. However, over time, as I got to know Vlad the Third Dracula, I found him to be one of the more fascinating people I’ve ever met.
Dracula pulls out the costume year-round, but he puts it to monetary use every fall, serving as the front-of-the-house scare master at Petrified Forest, a Halloween attraction that has been going strong for the past 13-years. He told me a hilarious story about how one guest thought he was Dracula and was scared crapless.
It was that story that, in all, summed up the experience one can get out of this Dunkin’ when the sun goes down. It may seem normal and fine on the surface, but the scene quickly turns into a night crawler’s subculture that will scare the 9-to-5ers crapless if they’re not used to it, and really, who would want it to be normal?
Normality is banal and uptight. Weirdness is loose and fun (most of the time). That’s the split personality that carries with the Altamonte Dunkin’, and, remarkably, the two never seem to overlap, which, for me, Dracula, and everyone else who frequents this Dunkin’ in the darkness of the day, sits just fine with us.