World’s Best Donuts was started in 1969 by Merieta “GrammaRita” Altrichter at the age of 47. It was named the Grand Marais Donut Shop and was located in a little block building that is now part of Dockside Fish Market. She made all the donuts by hand, mixing dough in a plastic bowl. It was not too long before the business was moved into Joynes’ Bargain Barn, which was located where there is now a parking lot. The front counter held three bowls of donuts: plain, sugared and cinnamon sugared. She would make donuts early in the morning and then a friend came in to sell the donuts during the day while Merieta went to her job working in a department store. In 1975 she was able to quit her minimum wage day job and make donuts full time in the summer. As soon as they learned to count change, Merieta’s granddaughters, Stacey and Dee started selling the donuts. Some of our customers have been buying donuts from our very beginning. There was no cash register then; we used a tackle box that was kept under the counter.The business grew steadily each year and in 1977 Merieta moved into her own new building on 10 East Wisconsin Street. This was also when she changed the name to World’s Best Donuts. With this new building new items were added such as long johns, raised donuts, bismarks, and our own famous Skizzle! Merieta’s daughters, Sherrie and Donnie joined the business and in 1987 an oven was purchased and the coffee room was added. It wasn’t too long before son-in-law Chet was also working in the kitchen. His favorite donut to decorate was the raised donut with frosting. He named them Chet’s Best.
The coffee room addition allowed us to add indoor seating and also display the pictures that our customers send us from all over the world. Customers have their pictures taken with their Donut Shop coffee mugs and then we put the pictures up on the walls. We have pictures of our cup from almost every state and many foreign countries. Our Donut Shop cup has even flown on the Concord.
As the business grew so did Merieta’s family. When the great-grandchildren were old enough, they started to work at the shop also. That is the reason why the paper towel holder in the coffee room is so low-it was used by the 4 and 5 year-olds when they did their first job of cleaning the tables!
In 2002, the third generation, Stacey and Dee, took over the day to day operation of the shop. This allowed Grandma, age 79, to finally enjoy a summer in Grand Marais without having to get up in the early morning. But just because she was not the first one to unlock the door in the morning does not mean she was any less involved in the business. She still came in on a regular basis to help set batches of dough, cut Skizzles, or help with cleanup at the end of the day. Until her passing in 2008 she was also who we turned to first for advice when we wanted to try something new. We strive to continue to do business the way we were taught by our grandmother. We are sure she is still keeping an eye on how we’re doing! Many of our customers are summer visitors. Our business continues to grow as we make new friends and people return year after year not only because we serve the World’s Best donuts, but also because they like our friendly, personal atmosphere. Customers can also sign up to become registered donut eaters. If you remember the number you sign up next to, you can win a free donut when you come back the following year.
We are proud of the way our business has grown and of the reputation we have. Not only do we want to make sure that you get your order just the way you want it, we want you to know that we appreciate your business. We want your visit to our shop to be one of your special memories of your visit to Grand Marais.