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.
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.
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.”
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.