Thursday, April 4, 2019

500 Selkirk Avenue - The Donut House

© 2019, Christian Cassidy

Place: The Donut House
Location: 500 Selkirk Avenue (Map)
Constructed: ca. 1959
Architect: Unknown
Contractor: Miller Construction

The "Do-nut House" first appears in Henderson's street directory of 1952 located at 496 Selkirk Avenue. It was the same building that housed the original Windmill Restaurant until it moved further west in 1949.

The proprietors were Sam Gilman and Alvin Slotnikov, (later shortened to Slotin).

A 1993 Free Press "advertorial" said the bakery was about to celebrate its 46th birthday, which would put its founding in 1947. Neither Gilman nor Slotin appear in Henderson Directories before 1952 as bakers. In 1950, for instance, Slotnikov is listed as a butcher and Samuel Gilman appears to have just opened a novelty shop in a former piano store at the 496 Selkirk Avenue address.

August 28, 1958, Winnipeg Tribune

It appears that their intention was to create a bakery chain with the Selkirk Avenue shop doubling as the head office.

By 1956, there were branches at 1795 Portage Avenue and 131 Marion Street. In 1958 there were five. "Peak Donut House" seems to have occurred in the mid-1960s with seven locations. (It is unclear if these were all full bakeries or just shops selling goods baked at the central location.)

The chain began to shrink in 1970 when it went back to three locations. By 1971 there was just the one. Doonut House goods were sold through department and grocery stores, likely negating the need for their own branded shops.

June 25, 1959, Winnipeg Free Press

The current Selkirk Avenue building appears to have been built on the site of the old one in early 1959. Ads in June 1959 invited people to come and see "one of the brightest and smartest looking retail shops in Winnipeg". The new address was 496-500 Selkirk Avenue.

In 1974, the founders retired and sold the bakery to Erhard Meier.

Erhard Meier, February 27, 1993, Winnipeg Free Press

Born in West Germany, Meier trained as a baker and came to Canada in 1953 at he age of eighteen. He worked at some smaller bakeries before joining Dominion Stores for thirteen years.

By 1993, the bakery had 53 employees. Its menu included 150 products, including buns, cakes, bread, scones, sausage rolls and pies. They also baked fifteen types of donuts, anywhere between 350-650 dozen a day. Much of their trade was wholesale, selling to restaurants, hospitals, VIA Rail, etc.. (They still actively work with he WRHA, for instance.)

Meier, who insisted on sticking it out on Selkirk Avenue despite its steady decline, was seriously injured in 2008 when he was attacked by three people in the lane behind the store with a baseball bat.He was 73-years-old.

Meier's son, Russ, is the general manager.

December 16, 1965, The Jewish Post

3 comments:

  1. I am surprised to see the mural of tiles I made in 1983 still exists - Doug Melnyk

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  2. When I was in high school in the the 60's, I worked in a Donut House Kiosk in Gambles Store! I remember peope lining up for American Black Rye and poppyseed buns and poppyseed rolls. Their apple and cherry slices and chocolate long johns were the a great seller also! Loved my job, great pleasure selling baked goods to customers. Even had a regular visitor who I eventually married in 1971! 49 years ago. Thank you Donut House!!

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    Replies
    1. GAMBLES? I haven't heard that name in many years. Used to go there all the time.

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