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A Rolling Success

The cinnamon rolls at Johnson's Corner, a road-side stop on Interstate 25 just north of Denver, have been "world famous" for the past 20 years. That is, if you believe the sign. And you should believe the sign. The early 50's-era truck stop was family owned until a few years ago when it was purchased by TravelCenters of America, but the famously-large company promised to maintain the integrity of the even more famous cinnamon roll.

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Johnson's Corner has been selling these rolls since an employee began making them shortly after the store opened. Truckers and adventure-seekers from the Denver-metro area have been enjoying them for years, but it wasn't until rather recently that the pastries have garnered international attention. In 1998 Travel & Leisure magazine placed the rolls on its list of top 10 breakfasts in the entire world. Years later, the Travel Channel's "Food Paradise" program featured them in a 2013 episode of "Truck Stop Paradise". The bakery produces 400,000 plate-sized rolls a year and it has become a cult classic.

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And so pastry purists were rightly concerned when a huge truck stop company purchased Johnson's Corner from the family that had owned and operated it for over 60 years. What would happen to their beloved cinnamon rolls? Would they become mere travel cakes? Not to worry. The Food Network's "50 States of Baked Goods" recently chose the famous plains-baked rolls to represent Colorado, another auspicious feather in Johnson's Corner's ever more decorative cap. This sort of success is sweet by any standard, especially when you consider that this place is pretty far from everywhere and that the enduring legend started with a recipe from a helpful employee. And this is the sort of brand story that most marketers envy.