Darien Doughnut to close after 30 years
On Aug. 25, it will be a “sad day in Darien,” said Lucille Delmonaco, about Darien Doughnut on Heights Road, which is closing its doors after 30 years in business.
Lucille, along with her husband John, were the original owners of Darien Doughnut, which is across from the Noroton Heights Train Station.
“It’s a sad time for me to see it go,” said Lucille of Fairfield, who, along with her husband, now own Johnny’s & Company hair cutting business on Post Road. “We are going to really miss it.”
Darien Doughnut, an independent business, sells 35 kinds of doughnuts as well as muffins, bagels, and breakfast sandwiches, and also offers a light lunch menu.
It’s in the Noroton Heights Shopping Center, which is being torn down and renovated into restaurants, retail stores, and residential units. Current owner Bill Tamme will be retiring.
The Delmonacos opened Darien Doughnut in 1989 and owned it for six years. The store was previously in the location of Fabricare Cleaners, which moved next door.
“We were the first doughnut shop in Darien,” Johnny said.
“We started it from scratch,” Lucille said. “We had no idea how it was going to be.”
She recalls being at the store by 4:30 a.m. every morning.
“We had lines around the post office every day to get doughnuts,” she said.
The couple’s family members and friends worked at the store with her.
“We had ’50s music playing all day long,” Lucille said. “We had a ball.”
The raised doughnuts were the most popular kind, according to Lucille.
“They were light and fluffy,” Lucille said. “They had a filling, such as jelly or chocolate frosted.”
“We had some people that used to get there early in the morning because the coffee rolls were so fresh — right out of the oven, and they loved it,” said John, who is 87 and had been cutting hair since 1966. “They came here early in the morning when they were still hot.”
John would see people running for the train, “and I knew they were in a hurry, so I got their coffee ready. Before they even got in the door, I gave it to them, telling them they can pay me tomorrow,” he said. “I knew they were late for the train.”
The couple provided doughnuts for the churches in town on Sundays.
Darien Doughnut had two owners in between the Delmonacos before Tamme, a Darien resident, purchased the business in 2006.
One of the reasons Tamme said he has enjoyed the business so much is it’s a “happy” one.
“People generally don’t come here who are sad,” said Tamme, who is 66.
“It’s like an ice cream store in the sense that the product brings people happiness and joy, as opposed to going to the grocery store and buying kale,” he said.
Tamme and his wife Carol Wilder-Tamme, who is the former president of Darien’s Chamber of Commerce, have two children and two grandchildren.
Tamme said he and his staff became very friendly with many customers over the years. He recalled a story that touched his heart.
For the first five or six years that Tamme owned the business, there was an older man who would often come into Darien Doughnut and buy coffee and a newspaper.
One day, Tamme found out the man had died.
“A few days later, a younger man showed up here and proceeded to thank all of us. He was the man’s son. He lives in Florida, but was coming up to help his mother with the funeral arrangements,” Tamme said.
“He wanted to let us know how much his father enjoyed coming here and his interactions with the people here,” he added. “To this day, the son comes up to see his mother once or twice a year, and he always comes in here to say hello.”
Tamme said the times his store is most busy has changed since he opened it.
“It’s happened over time. When I bought the store, it was much more dependent on the commuter business.” Tamme said. “Our busiest hours were peak train hours and we were seeing tons and tons of commuters.”
The business is much busier later in the morning now, according to Tamme.
“The tradesman worker clientele is certainly a much more important part of the business than it used to be — landscapers, or painters, or contractors — those guys are coming in for their morning coffee,” Tamme said.
In addition, he said that lunchtime “is a much bigger part of my business. It’s grown three times since I first bought the business,” said Tamme, adding there are more young families who are coming into the store.
Tamme said almost all of his customers are regulars, and he sees some of them two and three times a day.
“It’s a pretty hyper-local business,” he said.
Aside from all the regulars, there was a celebrity who used to come in — Brian Cashman, general manager of the New York Yankees.
From 2006 to 2008, Cashman stopped into Darien Doughnut a few times a week while taking his children to school.
Overall, business has been “remarkably steady,” Tamme said, adding he gets about 475 to 525 sales a day.
Once he closes the business, he is retiring and plans to do some traveling.
Does Tamme eat a lot of doughnuts?
No, he said.
“I’m not a big sweets guy,” he said, adding his typical breakfast is a Think Bar, which is a high protein bar.
Tamme said he has greatly enjoyed all the customer interaction. “You certainly become a part of the community,” he said.
“It’s surprising how much you learn about people over a series of 10- or 15- or 20- or 30-second conversations,” Tamme said. “You hear about their kids, sports activities, trying to sell their house or the tree that blew over or fell on their car. They tell you whatever they’re thinking about, that’s on the top of their head.”