Less than three weeks after beloved doughnut spot Dutch Girl Donuts took to its Facebook to inform its customers that it would close the doors to its Woodward store temporarily due to insufficient staffing, the shop's longtime owner Gene Timmer died Friday, Sep. 17. He was 75 years old.
According to The Detroit News, Timmer had succumbed to a battle with cancer that the Dutch Girl Donuts' owner, husband, father, and grandfather, had quietly endured for more than a year and a half. Things worsened within the past two months, forcing Timmer to be hospitalized. Apparently, he didn't even inform his wife, Lauren, the extent of his grim cancer diagnosis because he didn't want to worry her.
Timmer's parents, John and Cecilia, founded Dutch Girl Donuts in 1947 after taking over a former Dixie Cream Donut location. At the time of the move from Grand Rapids to Detroit, Timmer was just six months old. He would go on to work in the shop while in high school and it is at Dutch Girl, over a hot chocolate French cruller, that he met his wife, The Detroit Free Press reports. Timmer retired a decade ago and, since then, the business has been managed by his son, Jon.
The store, which is celebrated for its in-house made doughnuts and old-school recipes, had closed for several months last year during the pandemic, but eventually reopened. However, as a result of low staffing and health issues, Dutch Girl Donuts has since been forced to close and reassess its business strategy.
"I'd love to see what we could do to get it back open again," Timmer's daughter Johanna Parrow told The Detroit News. "But we can't make any promises."
Parrow says that last year's shutdown, which, for Dutch Girl, lasted a few months, was the first time the doughnut shop ever closed for an extended period of time, aside from family vacations. She says "things are on a roller coaster right now" as costs continue to rise and the future remains uncertain.
"We've tried to maintain our prices but everything is going up around us," she said. "We, as a small business, are just trying to do an honest day's work of producing real doughnuts."
If Dutch Girl Donuts can survive through to next year, the doughnut shop will reach its 75th anniversary, though Parrow says that maybe after 75 years, it might be time to call it quits. But she ensures the Dutch Girl-loving public that the family is working hard to avoid closing permanently.
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