Torn-Down Tuesday: Dickie’s Donuts at Elmwood & Hertel

       By Steve Cichon

This past week, Uniland Development crews razed the building that was the longtime home of Dickie’s Donuts at the corner of Elmwood and Hertel.

By the time this photo was taken in 2011, the Dickie’s Donuts location at Elmwood and Hertel had been closed for several years.

Dickie’s had the Buffalo doughnut market cornered for most of the ’80s and ’90s.

The locally owned and operated chain had 17 locations, making it the largest local name in doughnuts at the height of business in the mid-1990s, larger than Dunkin’ Donuts and Mister Donut, both of which had limited success in Western New York.

“We beat them at their own game in Buffalo,” said a proud Dickie’s founder Harold Wiesmore in a 1988 interview with The News. He opened the first Dickie’s Donuts in Woodlawn in 1978.

About the name Dickie’s Donuts?

Wiesmore always said he just liked it, and he thought it sounded like a name people would remember. That wound up being true for a generation of giggling Buffalonians and at least one national figure as well.

1982 ad.

Longtime “Tonight Show” host and comic Jay Leno often used his knowledge of the doughnut shop with the somewhat silly name as proof of his Buffalo bona fides.

“I always say to my wife, ‘Dickie’s Donuts, not associated with Richard’s Donuts Inc.’ ” said Leno in a telephone interview with News critic Alan Pergament in 2003.

“For some reason, when we used to tour Buffalo, we’d always go by that place and I’d always say that to my wife. It’s one of those things that isn’t funny to anybody except her.”

Founder Wiesmore died in 1995 and business dwindled for Dickie’s during the ensuing decade, as at the same time, Tim Hortons began to make inroads in the Buffalo market after opening its first Western New York location on Niagara Falls Boulevard at Ridge Lea in 1986.

By 2002, there were only five Dickie’s locations.

Many, like the one at Elmwood and Hertel, struggled after the New York State restaurant smoking ban was enacted. Gone were the men who sat on stools and in booths, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee.

It will likely be remembered as the only place to get coffee 24 hours a day during its heyday, but that Elmwood Avenue store will also be remembered as the backdrop for a scene in Vincent Gallo’s 1998 movie “Buffalo ’66.”

Dickie’s Donuts on Dingens Street closed in 2011.

The final remaining Dickie’s Donuts on Dingens Street closed in 2011. That location reopened a few months later as Donut Kraze, and carried on many of the Dickie’s Donuts traditions.

Dad died a year ago today

By Steve Cichon | | @stevebuffalo

One Year Today.

The Cichons, Turner Rd., Holliston, MA, 1985.
The Cichons, Turner Rd., Holliston, MA, 1985.

To put it in words he would have used, it’s been a year since my ol’man checked out. In fact, I’m sure I heard him start dozens, if not hundreds of sentences with, “When your ol’man checks out….”

Anyway, my dad died a year ago today. March 28, 2010. Palm Sunday 2010.

He was 58 when he died. He was very sick for most of his last few years, a combination of diabetes (which lead to a leg amputation), heart disease, and a serious case of indifference in dealing with and caring for those two conditions.

So he wasn’t always on his “A” game. He was sick a lot, and often pretty crabby. But when he was feeling good, man, he just wanted everyone to feel good. I really miss the way he could fill a room with joy, even when half the jokes were at his expense.

But for me, its all right there– I can see it, and just about feel it, but it’s just beyond my physical reach. The past year has been one of reflection upon all the great gifts my father gave this world. My heart floods with joy thinking of the very pure love that he doled out straight from the heart.

He was a thinker, and never afraid to tell anyone what he really thought about something. some of you reading this (and me writing this) may have found that out the hard way. I’m glad that I inherited the thinker trait from my ol’man, and I’m happy to have his example, to understand for myself, that sometimes its best to keep what you think to yourself.

The hardest part of the last year, are the times when I’ve forgotten he’s gone. It’s not that my full brain has doesn’t remember… It’s just that I’ll be having this little side conversation with myself, thinking about something in an almost subconscious sort of way, and it’ll lead to “I’ve gotta tell dad about this.”

That thought is only there for a fraction of a second, but it’s like a hard punch in the face. Just happened a few weeks ago, standing in the kitchen at work pouring coffee. BLAMMO.

By the way, this also happens with my diet. I’ve had Celiac Disease for 5 years. Haven’t had a doughnut in 5 years. Saturday, we drove by a Dickie’s Donuts, and my brain asked itself why I haven’t had a peanut stick in so long. Some parts of my brain have paperwork to catch up on.

Of course there’s more to write, plenty more. But the last reflection I’ll share on the last year: I now know some bit of Dad’s pain. Grandma Cichon died in 1996. Dad’s mom.

Inevitably, whenever we’d talk about grandma, which was often, we’d be smiling, but Dad’s face would turned pained. He’d sigh and say, “ooh, Mom…” or “ooh, Grandma…”

It’s the same thing I do now when I think about Dad.

In the days and weeks following his death, I wrote a brief book about my dad and our time together. There’s an e-book/pdf version at this page:

I’d be honored if you’d take a look at it. There are a lot of goofy pictures of me, if that makes it anymore enticing.