Volume 76, Number 44 | March 28 - April 3, 2007

Villager photo by Esther Martin

Leah Kornfelv-Freedman enjoying a glazed doughnut at The Donut Pub last week.

Rival doughnut stores will try to cream each other

By Julie Shapiro

On a strip of W. 14th St., the war between small, independent stores and large chains is moving to a new battleground: doughnuts. 

A Dunkin’ Donuts will soon open several doors down from The Donut Pub, a 43-year fixture at W. 14th St. and Seventh Ave. The arrival of Dunkin’ Donuts worries some Donut Pub customers, who have frequented the small shop for decades.

“It’s just another sign of the corporate mentality taking over the neighborhood,” said Tom Cahill, who grew up in the area. “There’s less and less of a neighborhood feeling.” 

Cahill comes to The Donut Pub five times a week, drawn by the good food and good company.

“When you come in, people know you,” he said. “It’s a neighborhood place and I like to try to support it.” 

The small shop serves steaming coffee and fresh-baked doughnuts 24 hours a day. Commuters rub elbows with tourists and locals during the day, and the bar crowd comes in late at night on weekends. They are all drawn to the cozy shop with stools lining the marble counter, where the workers wearing “Got Donuts?” T-shirts know the customers by name.

On a busy day, The Donut Pub sells nearly 2,000 doughnuts, and bakers work around the clock to keep up with the demand, operation manager Gus Markatos said. Cold weather brings more customers and increases the coffee sales.

Markatos likens his job to that of a bartender, because he gets to know the regulars and learns their life stories. This being on the border of Chelsea and the Village, there’s also a regular contingent that complains about President Bush and discusses overthrowing the government.

“People sit down and talk, and they become friends,” Markatos said.

The Donut Pub’s unique atmosphere and fresh food have attracted attention. A Web site called Shecky’s, which covers city trends, awarded The Donut Pub the Best Glazed Goodness in New York Award in 2006.

Also in 2006, the magazine Quintessential Style selected The Donut Pub for the Best Black-And-White Cookie Award. The thick, plate-sized cookie is one of the shop’s bestsellers, Markatos said.

In addition to pastries, The Donut Pub also serves bagels, eggs and a wide range of sandwiches that cost less than $5. The location, menu and recipes haven’t changed since The Donut Pub opened in 1964, Markatos said.

Markatos isn’t too worried about the new Dunkin’ Donuts, which, according to a Dunkin’ Donuts representative, will open by September.

“I think it’ll make us better,” Markatos said. “But it still hurts to see.”

Other small, independent doughnut shops have closed over the years, but The Donut Pub has outlasted them all. Why?

“Superior product,” Markatos said, smiling. 

Frank Martin has been coming to The Donut Pub several times a week for 12 years. The fresh doughnuts initially drew him in, and the feeling of community kept him coming back.

“I run into people I know,” he said. 

Martin isn’t concerned about the new Dunkin’ Donuts.

“It’s kind of a no-brainer,” he said. “I don’t even know how to cook, and I know the difference between those doughnuts and these doughnuts.” 

Josephine Motto knows the difference, too. She lives across the street from The Donut Pub and has been coming in twice a week for the past 10 years. Motto once tried a free sample that Dunkin’ Donuts gave out as a promotion, and “I got sick on them,” she said. “[The Donut Pub’s] doughnuts are much better.” 

Fred Peterson, though, is keeping an open mind. He’s been coming to The Donut Pub several times a month for the past six years, but he wants to give Dunkin’ Donuts a shot.

“I’ve heard they have very good coffee,” Peterson said. “I might try it out, see if I like their coffee better.” 

The new Dunkin’ Donuts is “good for capitalism,” Peterson said. “It’ll be the survival of the tastiest.”

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