Winchell’s Last Donut

bake_winchells_dozen_aKeen eyes alerted us to another fallen business on 45th Street: Winchell’s. We got this note from an anonymous tipster yesterday morning:

Any word on Winchells closing or are they just having a bad day? I walk by there twice a day to & from the bus but never pay much attention as I’m not that into donuts. This morning, I noticed two guys peeking in the window and this caught my attention so I glanced in to see a semi-dark interior and completely empty racks. Also, the “Open 24 hours a day” sign caught my attention.

As luck would have it, later that afternoon, as we were waited for our Rancho Bravo fix,  we spied three men emerging from the darkened, donut-less interior. One of them turned out to be Brian Peeples, the owner.

Yes, indeed, he confirmed, this Winchell’s is closed for good. Apparently, the property had been sold to a third-party who was planning a different shop on the location, but the contract soured. The buyer is now seeking to back-out, despite having already paid a 50% deposit on the sale. The sudden change caused the sudden closure, for which Brian was apologetic: “I’m really sorry we weren’t able to give our regular patrons more notice.”

According to the Winchell’s web site, the nearest Winchell’s to Seattle is now in Salinas, California. You may want to try Mighty-O Donuts (2110 N 55th St), instead.

  • Owen

    My heart is shattered.

  • http://www.dougunderground.com DOUG.

    I wonder if Rancho Bravo would take the space over, like they did the old KFC on Capitol Hill?

  • http://www.twitter.com/lizwagner Liz

    This is so sad. I’ll miss smelling them at the bus stop every morning.

  • Lauren

    Wow. That is very sad. Not that I got donuts from there often – but it was nice to know that I could. I’m sorry but Mighty-O Donuts are disgusting! I guess I’ll have to head to Top Pot for my donut fix.

  • Brady

    With Mighty’O Donuts in the same neighborhood Winchell’s shouldn’t be allowed to call their fare ‘donuts’. Hopefully Rancho Bravo will take the building, but what are they going to do with their new taco truck shipped up from Mexico that hasn’t seen a day of life yet?

  • http://www.cooklocal.com John

    I wish Frost might decide to take it over and sell some of they stuff closer to the city…….

  • Brandi

    Please just let it not be another Puffin Glass shop…

  • Ffej

    I used to get donuts for the office from Winchells years ago; nice folks, convenient trip.

    But then I found Top Pot, and that monkey became firmly attached to my back, and haven’t been back to Winchells since.

    Hope this doesn’t mean Rancho Bravo has to move.

  • SeattleAlan

    Well, yuppie-uppity got-to-be designer foodies aside, Winchell’s made a good donut. Saturday morning donuts on a walk with the kids was a nice memory in our neighborhood. No one else made a chocolate frosted old fashioned like Winchell’s. Sad to see them go!

  • Maggie

    Dang. I will miss them. I always wondered how they were profitable, because I never saw more than one person in the shop at any given time, but good luck to the owner on the ugly contract situation.

    Hopefully something spiffier than a head shop or tanning salon will move in. I’d really like to see the rest of Wallingford creep downhill to the highway, instead of U-district seediness creeping in.

  • Alex

    I like donuts but only made it into Winchells once. I won’t miss the smell hitting my face as I begin to ride my bike up the hill on 45th.

  • http://www.dougunderground.com DOUG.

    Alan@9: If preferring local and organic over national and mysterious is “yuppie-uppity” then I will gladly wear the label.

  • SeattleAlan

    Winchell’s was a standard in the neighborhood long before Mighty-O, and there was nothing mysterious about a locally owned franchise – sad to see any business owner lose their business cause their building got sold out from under them.
    I lean to local & organic for meals, like at Portage Bay Cafe’, but a donut is a donut…. don’t need too many twigs in them to make them tasty.
    Don’t go to a donut shop for health, do we??

  • http://www.partsandpeople.com Terry Parkhurst

    The loss to the neighborhood is with the history that the Winchell’s carried with it. It started as a Winchell’s back in 1968.

    The family that ran it for years – up to 1980s, so told – was the Poes. People who are long-time residents still talk(ed) about them.

    In the 1980s, it was a great place to go, and work on papers or, if you were a freelance writer – myself – map out an article and get it half done; before going home at one or two a.m.

    In the 1990s, the slide began. A particularly nasty couple that ran it, used to throw out any newspapers of the day, as soon as people left them. In fact, Leo Duran, a WWII vet (and a regular) now deceased, told me he was going across the street to use a restroom on a Sunday, and looked back to see the female of the duo starting to toss his Sunday paper. He had to ask her to stop.

    Sorry to say, Brian didn’t help matters. When tried to explain to his girlfriend that their policy of no public restroom, and the no smoking policy (instituted in 1997) has alienated the regulars, she responed, “I don’t care about that. I don’t care about them.”

    It was only a matter of time before one thing or the other led the place to close. Maybe Freddie can hire Noe Garcia to bake for him; however, from the sound of things, all the machinery to bake doughnuts is going away. You have to wonder what the longtime baker, Bill – with Winchell’s since 1990 something – will do with himself. Hard to imagine him filing for unemployment. Harder still imagining him working for some company other than Winchell’s.

  • http://www.partsandpeople.com Terry Parkhurst

    Correction: Last sentence, next to last paragraph: When I tried to explain to his girlfriend that their new policy of no public restroom, and the no smoking policy, had alienated the regulars, she responded, “I don’t care about that. I don’t care about what was.”

  • http://www.wallyhood.org Wallyhood

    Thanks for posting, Terry. I’ve been here only 16 years, and had no idea the history of that place.

  • http://www.partsandpeople.com Terry Parkhurst

    You’re welcome. You might also want to write something about yet another retail operation – this a retail and service shop – that has closed in Wallingford: Seattle Mopeds. They were in a building, in the next block east of Winchell’s.

    I’d talked to them, a few times and had tried to interest both the North Seattle Herald-Outlook and Seattlepi.com in a story on them. Vera Chan-Pool, who was the editor of the former had expressed interest; with the idea of doing it herself or assigning someone. Seattlepi.com’s Scott Sunde passed. Now, it is all academic.

    Maybe they moved somewhere else; but doubt it. There is no sign indicating a move. You might want to call 1977 Mopeds SF, who was affiliated with Seattle Mopeds. Their telephone number was – is? – 1-800-965-1977. I haven’t because I tend to think they closed, too. Besides, I have no assignment to pursue it.

    Thing is, Winchell’s really had become more than a bit of an anachronism. But Seattle Mopeds seemed to be something whose time had returned. I write “returned” not only because they dealt in vintage mopeds – restored or just ready to run – but because events, outside of Seattle, seemed to have made the market ripe for mopeds. Just as it was in the late 1970s.

    Retail is struggling mightily now. It might be something for the next mayor of Seattle to think about – again and again.

  • http://www.partsandpeople.com Terry Parkhurst

    Forgot to mention: the sign for Seattle Mopeds is still up. If you need a graphic for your blog, there it is.

  • SeattleAlan

    I, too, appreciate the historical and well written notes you made, Terry. I am afraid that the girlfriend’s attitude seems to be an attitude for many newbies in the area. “I don’t care about that. I don’t care about what was.” The old business/tradition is gone, so what? Hopefully the “head shops” won’t take over.

    I was never one to hang out at Winchell’s. Just grab a donut with the kids on a Saturday morning or while walking the dog. Never had any real interaction with the staff. All seemed pretty friendly over the years.

    I wonder if Seattle is a difficult place to be an owner of a franchise. It is weird that the closest Winchell’s now is in the middle of California. Many franchises of national chains have closed and become different businesses. Examples are the Wendy’s on 85th, the KFC on 25th, etc. Any ideas on that?

  • http://www.partsandpeople.com Terry Parkhurst

    I think that the companies which own the franchises put a lot of pressure on the owners to sell the food – maybe too much. That seemed to be the case with the owners prior to Brian; who in 2002, fired a manager named “Lonnie,” one of the more decent guys to work there. One owner lived in California and let the other guy run the place like some sort of work release facility.

    They sold it in late 2003, after creating a lot of ill will with the regulars.

    That’s really the crux of the problem. The franchise want business. So a franchise owner comes in, figures I’ll make some changes and the place will be better. What they don’t understand is that while people will accept change that is better, they don’t want change, simply for the sake of change. It destroys that sense of continuity which makes for community.

    Burger King and KFC seemed to have problems that went beyond that. I used to eat at the Burger King in Ballard, from time to time, in the earlier part of this decade. The quality of the food wasn’t always good. Additionally, it had no regular clientele. Again, it had the ambience of a bus station; similar to what happeend to the Wallingford Winchell’s before it closed.

    Brian’s girlfriend – assuming they are still together – probably doesn’t yet understand the mistakes they made.

  • aurora107

    Perhaps another enterprising family/person will open a Dunkin’ Donuts there… Winchell’s donuts were nice, but nothing beats a peanut covered donut and the strength of the coffee at DD! Winchell’s coffee was probably some of the worst in Seattle (which means it was probably fine for other locales!).

  • http://www.dougunderground.com DOUG.

    Whatever it is that Seattle’s doing to keep national franchises at bay, I hope they continue to do it. Rancho Bravo, Mighty-O and Molly Moon’s are part of what make Wallingford unique. If they were instead a Taco Bell, Dunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, I might as well live in Irvine.

  • SeattleAlan

    Hey Doug, I’ll agree with you there. I was just wondering how franchises were treated in Seattle in general. Wouldn’t be too keen on getting the big lights and flashing stuff with the national chains in Wallingford.
    Mighty-O does a good job with a donut and has good coffee. My dog & I drop by their Meridan location on her walks. That’s a great idea, and they sure would get more traffic than folks wandering in over in the Meridian neighborhood. Their peanut covered donuts are great. Wonder if they could make an apple fritter???
    Anyone have contacts with Mighty-O???

  • http://mightyo.com Mighty-O

    Hey, Alan! Thanks for the Mighty-O flavor request! We are actually working on an apple fritter. At this point, I can’t give you an estimate of when we’ll have it perfected and ready to share, but we are working on it. Apple fritters are yeast-raised, and yeast-raised donuts are a challenge to get consistently right without preservatives.

  • SeattleAlan

    Hey, Mighty-O!
    How about expanding to the old Winchell’s spot? Being local would give you the Wallingford traffic, for sure. It would be a big expansion, though.
    I like to sit out front at your place and survey my old neighborhood, when I walk the dog over to your place on occasion. A naked cake donut is my border collie’s favorite treat. She sits and quivers in antici—pation until I’ve given her the whole thing.She even sat & gave the sad dog eyes to someone that had a donut on a plate inside…(didn’t work, though).
    I’ll look for that apple fritter in the future. Winchell’s had a blueberry fritter, too.

  • http://www.dougunderground.com DOUG.

    I would weigh 300 pounds if Mighty-O took over that Winchell’s location.

  • SeattleAlan

    I hear you, Doug! Especially if they get the Apple or Blueberry Fritter figured out!!

  • Brady

    Bagelry!

  • Jim C.

    Meanwhile, in Temple City California, the original Winchell’s donut shop is being converted into a beauty salon according to a recent City Manager’s report:

    http://www.ci.temple-city.ca.us/CM%20Reports/2009/2009-12-10%20CM%20Report.pdf,

    It’s the item at the bottom of the first page.

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