Old-school Chelsea donut shop opens East Village location

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The Donut Pub on 14th street in Chelsea. Photo: Janet Lie.

The Donut Pub, one of the few remaining independent businesses on a gentrifying strip on 14th street, is opening a second location in the East Village. ”It’s the story of David and Goliath, and our shop is David,” said long-time Donut Pub owner Emanuel ‘Buzzy’ Geduld, former CEO of the trading firm Herzog Heine Geduld, Inc., which was acquired by Merrill Lynch in 2000. After 54 years, David is about to get a sibling: A second shop opens on Astor Place and Broadway in mid-December.   

Geduld and his brother opened the original 24/7 shop in 1964, at 14th Street and 7th Avenue in Chelsea, and it has since become a staple for inexpensive pastries, sandwiches, and coffee. The long, marble counter and spinning stools take you back to vintage diners, and the prices are low compared to some newer shops in the area. The classic honey-dipped donut costs $1.75, while the more expensive mint chocolate chip donut is $2.75.  While other small businesses are struggling to keep up with the rents, the mom-and-pop pastry shop has managed to survive.  

”In just the last ten years, retail rents on the 14th Street strip have doubled,” said Jonathon Anapol, president of the real estate firm Prime Manhattan Realty. ”Franchises and national chains are taking over, as they are more able to afford the high rents.” But The Donut Shop has beaten franchises in their own game. Two Dunkin’ Donuts opened in the neighbourhood and lasted a few years, but customers preferred Geduld’s old-school donuts. 

The shop is so popular that Geduld decided to sell Donut Pub merchandise over fifteen years ago. ”Customers were asking about it, so now we carry hats, mugs, T-shirts, sweatshirts and aprons.” Geduld mentions he even wanted to buy the building on 14th Street. ”But it was never for sale.” Instead he signed a new ten-year lease in 2017. 

While The Donut Pub is expanding, other small businesses on 14th street are feeling the heat of the increasing rent prices. ”When I first started my business in 1978, my rent was $1,500, but now it’s over $10,000,” said Peter Wallach, owner of picture frame shop 14th Street Framing Gallery. To make ends meet, he now has fewer employers and sublets part of his space to a law firm.  

So what is the attraction of The Donut Pub? ”Our product is superior. We have great reviews online and we get a lot of word-of-mouth attention,” Geduld said. In a good week, they can sell around 900 dozen pastries. 

Their donuts are hand-made, which is rare in New York City, said Donut Pub manager Sammy Attiyeh. ”We also treat our customers like family. Some people have been coming for years.”

One long-term customer is John DeWitt Gregory, a retiree who lives around the corner and has been coming to The Donut Pub for the past five years. While he reads the newspaper and eats a muffin, his caregiver, Princess Blair, waits for him with a cup of coffee. Gregory mentions he doesn’t eat the donuts, but loves the muffins. ”Sammy makes them just the way I like it,” he said.  

The Donut Pub has also become a regular stop for tourists. ”The interior is very old-fashioned, very American,” said Giacomo Boselli, from Italy. ”It doesn’t feel like a tourist spot because there are so many New Yorkers here.” 

The second Donut Pub is located in a building leased by Geduld’s friend, real estate developer Jeff  Gural. Geduld’s 23-year-old daughter Nancy, a 2017 college graduate, will manage the new shop. Like her two sisters, she grew up decorating and baking donuts in their father’s store and, although she has no prior experience in management, she now works fulltime in the original Donut Pub to learn the business. According to Nancy, most customers come in for the nostalgic feeling. ”Our branding is pretty unique, as it hasn’t changed since the 1960s. It reminds people of the past and keeps our business consistent.”  

Will David eventually expand into a Goliath-like franchise? Buzzy Geduld said he hasn’t thought about expanding further. ”We’ll focus on the second one first.”