In the new year, The Donut Pub will surely get new neighbors, but they won’t be Munchkins.
The Munchkins are gone till 2020.
Dunkin’ technically had seniority. The chain began in 1950; The Donut Pub didn’t open till 1964. But by 2007, The Donut Pub had already knocked off one Dunkin’ Donuts. The neighborhood had cast its vote for a place that calls Munchkins “Donut Holes.”
That was in the late nineties. Yet Dunkin’ tried again a decade later, at 215 West 14th Street, just a few doors away. So it should be returning in about nine years, and gone again in four. America may run on Dunkin’, but New York stops at The Pub.
It stops there because The Pub has better doughnuts and better service, not to mention a better sign. But better isn’t always enough. I think The Pub wins because Dunkin’ Donuts feels like a place to get out of, while The Donut Pub feels like a place to come into.
It has a counter where people nestle with a newspaper and two pastries, since they usually have two favorites and get both rather than choose. And it has counter people who want to please you, like Sam, who’s been there for twenty-six years, and Gus Markatos, who’s the manager but doesn’t let that stop him.
“I like interacting with people,” he told me. “When someone’s not in, I cover for them. I drink coffee, I eat doughnuts, I do everything.” Still, it’s the pastries that keep The Pub popular, he said. “We have the best black-and-white in the city,” he added. I still don’t know how he knew I would care.
But The Pub has always had doughnut competitors, at least till they’ve run out of dough. In the sixties doughnuts were everywhere, since back then they were good for you. There were shops all over the neighborhood, Gus said, including across the street. They were good for The Donut Pub. They provided target practice.
Decades later, the exalted Krispy Kreme arrived in the city. It opened its first store nine blocks away, in 1996. The company called itself “the biggest thing to hit New York since Nathan’s sold its first hot dog at Times Square.” The Pub would cream Krispy just the way it had sunk Dunkin’.
The Pub’s just plain inspirational, especially when you learn that one of its founders was a man named Buzzy Geduld. Buzzy went on to become a Wall Street trader who managed Herzog Heine Geduld until Merrill Lynch bought it in 2000 for about a billion dollars.
In short, you don’t mess with The Pub, even if you do have 9,700 stores. Sure, nearby stores display doughnuts — but only a couple of doughnuts.
As a Pub counter man said to me one night: “Why would you try to compete with a place that’s been here since ’64? Have some respect for the place.”
Have some respect for The Donut Pub at 203 West 14th Street, near Seventh Avenue, in New York City.