A new Dunkin’ Donut was a welcome sight to workers in downtown Reading Wednesday, which finally got a much-needed coffee shop in the area near the Santander Arena and the DoubleTree by Hilton.
The Dunkin’ Donuts at 645 Penn St. held a soft opening, but a line of eager customers flowed out the door, waiting to get hot cups of coffee and boxes of doughnuts emblazoned with Dunkin’ Donuts signature pink and orange.
The national doughnut chain is the first of several national and local stores that will be moving into the first floor of the former Exide battery building, which is undergoing a massive $6.5 million renovation by owner and developer Alan Shuman, president of the Shuman Development Group.
Shuman repurchased the five-story, 130,000-square-foot building last summer after selling it about 10 years ago. Under the previous owners, the building fell into disrepair and had a 36 percent vacancy rate.
Shuman, who received $1.5 million in tax credits for building projects in low-income areas, removed about 2,000 square feet of the building’s first floor to create outdoor seating in front of the Dunkin’ Donuts.
Shuman said it was important to get retailers on the first floor because it creates foot traffic and spurs other commerce and a sense of vitality in a downtown.
“The other owner tended to let offices move in on the first floor. That is not how you run a successful downtown. If you go to Philadelphia or New York City, you don’t see the first floors occupied by offices,” he said.
Shuman said he is working on securing a national sandwich chain to occupy another space on the building’s first floor.
“Usually once we get one national tenant, the rest usually kind of line up,” he said.
Shuman anticipates getting other national and local retailers as tenants on the first floor, including a brew pub and a taco chain.
A pizza shop is under construction on the courtyard side of the building.
First-floor businesses that were not retailers have been relocated to other floors.