Native New Yorker Emanuel E. “Buzzy” Geduld is a master of many trades. For years, he was a successful Wall Street broker, but his specialty and first passion has always been (and always will be, he says) making doughnuts. In 1962, Geduld and his brother opened their 24-7 Donut Pub, which boasts some of the best fresh-baked breakfast pastries in New York City. What Should We Do?! founder Arielle Tepper Madover sat down with this doughnut aficionado to chat about the changing city and selling doughnuts for 53 years.
Arielle Tepper Madover: Which business came first—doughnuts or banking?
Buzzy Geduld: The Donut Pub came first. We opened up our first shop on 23rd and Sixth Avenue in 1962, and my brother and I ultimately opened up six stores. I went to Wall Street in ’68.
ATP: What made you decide to go into doughnuts? Was it a family business?
Geduld: My brother worked on Wall Street but couldn’t make a living in the early ’60s. My dad owned a restaurant-bar on 24th and Sixth (named Buzzy’s), and he suggested doughnuts. I helped manage the first store with him [my brother], and then we opened up more around the city. We weren’t smart enough to know what a franchise was, so we just sold doughnuts. In 1968, I was going into the Army Reserve, and my brother told me, “Wall Street is getting hot again. I’m going back to Wall Street. So I’m going to sell off all the stores,” and I said, “Well, I’d like to keep this one [on 14th Street].”
Tepper Madover: Did you actually make the doughnuts?
Geduld: Yes. I started doing this when I was 19 years old. I would bake in the morning and be finished by 10:30 a.m. with nothing to do. So I would get on the train and head downtown to my brother’s office on Wall Street. I would post his positions, and after a couple of months, his boss offered me a job. And I never left.
Tepper Madover: But you still grew the doughnut business. What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned through owning the Donut Pub?
Geduld: I learned how to run a business. As I’ve said to many people in the past, running a brokerage firm is not that different from running a doughnut shop. You have clients and you want to make sure they’re happy and that they want to come back. The client is always right. All of those things are as important in a doughnut shop as they are on Wall Street. It’s all about your clients and making them happy. I used to tell people that when a client calls, you want him to think he made the right call. It’s all about customer service.
Tepper Madover: How did you decide where to open your shops?
Geduld: Well, it’s all about foot traffic. I would stand at a location with a counter and count how many people would go by every hour. The key to it is that you want to be near a bus stop or a subway station because you need foot traffic.
Tepper Madover: Have you changed any of your recipes?
Geduld: We became nut-free when one of my daughters was 1 year old, because we found out she had a nut allergy.
Tepper Madover: Where did you get the name for the Donut Pub?
Geduld: At the time, in the early ’60s, “pub” was sort of a hot word. So I just thought Donut Pub sounded cool.
Tepper Madover: Do you feel like the neighborhood [West Village] has changed a lot throughout the years?
Geduld: Well, I used to live on Charles Street and Seventh Avenue, which is a few blocks away from the Donut Pub, for about 25 years, before I had kids. It has always been nice to be in the West Village—it’s now the hottest neighborhood in the city and one of the most expensive. It’s just terrific. Six months ago, we signed a 10-year lease for the Donut Pub. So we’re going to be there for a while.
Tepper Madover: What do you think about the doughnut resurgence in New York? There seem to be a lot of doughnut shops opening up.
Geduld: I’m not surprised. Back in the late ’90s, I did an interview with The Washington Post. We started to talk about doughnuts, and I told them that they are coming back. It’s an inexpensive pleasure; it’s old school. I think people like that about it, too.
We’ve had two Dunkin’ Donuts open up within four doors of us at different times and they both ended up going out of business. We’ve just maintained what we do, and we try to do it the best. This year was our best one yet.
Tepper Madover: Do you have a favorite street in New York City?
Geduld: I like Central Park West and walking around Bleecker Street.
Tepper Madover: Are you a doughnut dunker?
Geduld: No. To me, the center [of filled doughnuts], where the jam or custard is, is my favorite part, so I eat the middle with just a bit of the dough. That way I can have five or six!
Tepper Madover: Do you have a favorite flavor?
Geduld: My favorite doughnut is the Boston cream, but, don’t tell anyone, I actually think the absolute best thing we make is the black and white cookie.
Tepper Madover: If WSWD were to plan a day for you in New York City, what would it include?
Geduld: Breakfast at Barney Greengrass, brunch at Paola’s on 92nd Street and Madison Avenue, a walk around Central Park, and then dinner at the Polo Bar.
Tepper Madover: What do you love about living in New York City?
Geduld: The energy and excitement. I can’t imagine voluntarily living somewhere else. It’s just the best city in the world. There is nothing you can’t find here. As far as food goes, I think the food is as good as it gets because we have the best restaurants.
Tepper Madover: How often are you at the Donut Pub these days?
Geduld: When I’m in the city on the weekend, I’ll be there on Saturday morning. The fella who runs it, and is now a partner, will have me taste-test some of his new ideas over a cup of coffee.
Tepper Madover: How often does he come up with new products?
Geduld: Sometimes it’s every couple of months and sometimes it is every week. A new product might be as simple as a doughnut with a different kind of icing or color. We’re also going to have gluten-free doughnuts soon.
Tepper Madover: Do you have any tips to give small-business owners who are just starting out?
Geduld: Don’t do it unless you’re really passionate about it. Don’t do it if you just want to make money. If you really love what you’re doing, then it’s going to be fun. If you have a real passion for it, then you have a better shot at making it. For me, whether I was at the Donut Pub or on Wall Street, it never felt like work. If you don’t really love it, don’t waste your time.
Buzzy Geduld’s Faves…in a NY Minute
John’s of Bleecker Street.
Place to take out-of-town guests?
The Polo Bar.
Historical site or attraction?
New-York Historical Society.
Place to relax?
The Friars Club after playing tennis on Thursday evenings.
Tennis at the Manhattan Plaza Racquet Club.
Place to people-watch?
Anywhere in New York is great for people-watching!