Las Vegas Sun

November 19, 2017

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Doughnut chain founder Winchell dies at LV home

A private burial will be held for Winchell's Donut House founder Verne Winchell, who died Tuesday in a local hospital after suffering a heart attack in his Las Vegas home.

He was 87 years old and had been a Las Vegas resident for 30 years. He was also a thoroughbred horsebreeder and stable owner who produced two champions and was engaged in real estate ventures including the development of Horizon Marketplace shopping center on Horizon Ridge at Eastern Avenue.

But he won his fame and fortune with his doughnuts and Denny's Restaurants.

Winchell opened his first doughnut shop in 1948 in Temple, Calif., and took his company public in 1961. At its peak, the chain had about 1,000 stores from California to Ohio. In recent years Winchell's became more of a regional favorite, remaining the West Coast's largest doughnut chain with more than 200 stores in 12 states plus locations in Guam, Saipan, New Zealand and Saudi Arabia.

In 1967 Winchell's company merged with Denny's Restaurants, and under Winchell's guidance, Denny's Inc.'s sales rose from $150 million in 1972 to $680 million in 1980.

Born Oct. 30, 1915, in Bloomington, Ill., Winchell attended Alhambra, Calif., High School and was a graduate of Pasadena City College.

Winchell, who majored in business, became a successful entrepreneur whose doughnut shop quickly became a household name.

"From day one our founder, Verne Winchell, vowed that no matter how big the chain grew, Winchell's would continue to deliver a freshly made product with personalized services," Tom Dowling, Winchell's president, said when the company introduced its Warm 'N' Fresh program in 1999 to remain competitive with Krispy Kreme.

In 1998 Winchell's store in Pasadena created the world's largest doughnut. The pastry weighed 5,000 pounds and stood 95 feet tall.

Winchell was a Civil War and World War II history buff and was also an active horse breeder. His first horse, Donut King, was the Champagne Stakes winner in 1961.

Winchell is survived by his wife of 37 years, Joan of Las Vegas; daughters, Christina Winchell-Harris of Newport Beach, Calif. and Linda Schumacher of Orange County, Calif.; sons, Ron Winchell of Las Vegas and Richard Winchell of Sherman Oaks, Calif.; sisters Eloise Wills of Arcadia, Calif., and Barbara Ogden of San Marino, Calif.; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.