Cinnabon Knows You Don't Want to Eat It. It Doesn't Care

The sweet history of a cinnamon roll empire
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 2, 2017 4:34 PM CDT
Updated Nov 5, 2017 7:33 AM CST
Cinnabon Knows You Don't Want to Eat It. It Doesn't Care
   (Getty Images/PamWalker68)

Cinnabon knows it didn't get to where it is—1,200 locations in 48 countries—because it makes a product people want to eat. Rather, 32 years ago the chain perfected a recipe so tantalizing people weren't strong enough not to eat it. “For so many years, everyone was so insecure about being a freaking indulgent calorie bomb,” says Greg Komen, son of Cinnabon founder Rich Komen. “The best thing this company ever did is not be insecure about what we are.” In a sweet look back at the rise of Cinnabon—and its current fame as a framing device on Better Call SaulSeattle Met explains it all started with an unavoidable smell in a Kansas City mall in 1984. That's where restaurateur Rich Komen found T.J. Cinnamons, from which the aroma of softball-size cinnamon rolls drew customers to its tiny, nearly hidden stall.

When T.J. Cinnamons turned down Komen's franchising plans, he decided to develop his own cinnamon rolls. In 1985, Komen called Jerilyn Brusseau, who served up her grandmother's cinnamon rolls at a restaurant near Seattle, with a simple question, "How'd you like to make the world's greatest cinnamon rolls?" Komen gave Brusseau three months to make a cinnamon roll that was "irresistible" and humongous, had "a big cinnamon hit," and could bake in under 14 minutes. It wasn't easy. The final breakthrough was when Greg Komen realized the rolls should be cooked "medium rare to even rare." Cinnabon opened its first location inside a "second-tier mall" outside Seattle. From there, the overwhelming smell of its cinnamon rolls—and the suspect willpower of the American shopper—took over. Read the full story here for more, including why it's not "Cinnabun." (More Longform stories.)

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