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Turnaround Stories From Smallville

Stocks in this article: KKDCOSI

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- This past couple of weeks has been full of surprises, primarily on the earnings front, for a number of smaller names that I own or follow.

As a value investor, I don't focus a great deal of attention on a single quarter's release. Unless there's a game-changing event that is contrary to the reasons that I took a position in the first place, it is unlikely that I'd close a position based on a disappointing number. By the same token, it is good to see incremental progress, especially in cases when I've taken a position in "fixer-uppers" or long-shots that are facing challenges and trying a turn-around.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (KKD) is a great example of a turnaround story. Formerly a high-flying growth company after going public in 2000, the name fell on hard times due to over-expansion, poor management and accounting issues. Lawsuits followed, and the company appeared to be dead in the water. Between 2004 and 2009, it closed 240 stores. After losing money for five consecutive years, Krispy Kreme reported breakeven results in 2010 and has been profitable eight of the past nine quarters.

Last week, the company reported that second-quarter revenue rose 4.3% to $102.1 million, below the $104.5 million consensus estimate. However, earnings came in at 7 cents a share, beating the 5-cent consensus estimate, primarily due to an improvement in operating margins.

Same store sales grew 5.4% at company-owned stores, the 15th consecutive quarterly increase. Perhaps surprisingly to many investors, the company is growing again, and much of that growth is international. Krispy Kreme now has about 390 international franchises (compared to 141 domestic), and has plans to grow to 900 international locations by 2017. While still a work in progress, this company has come a long way.

Restaurant chain Cosi (COSI) provided a surprise of its own for the second quarter; the company turned its first-ever quarterly profit from operations. It was a very small profit, just $77,000, a drop in the bucket for a 133 restaurant chain, but even that was a monumental step for the company.

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