Before Dunkin’ Donuts declared that it was time for them to make corporate doughnuts in Pittsburgh, the city had its own “Donut Man.” Henry Meyer. He was one of the better-known night people in the city. He didn’t make the doughnuts, he serviced his many accounts in Pittsburgh by delivering and reselling doughnuts, connecting producers with the suppliers for a little bit of profit for himself.
In spite of his unassuming occupation and unpretentious personality, he was an essential character of Pittsburgh’s routine for more than 50 years.
And for more than 50 years, his shift pretty much always started at midnight. On average he delivered doughnuts to 40 restaurants and grocery stores in the Hill and Strip districts, East Liberty, Oakland and Downtown. He would pick up doughnuts, Danishes and pecan rolls at places like Greb’s Bakery on 27th Street, Balcer’s on Carson Street and Rosenbloom’s Bakery in Squirrel Hill and then drop them off all across the city.
Henry Meyer was a man with a story, a hustler, a recognizable Pittsburgh face, who grew up during Depression days.
“We came to Pittsburgh from the New York City on Armistice Day in 1918,” Henry Meyer said of his roots. “My dad has lost a lot of money trying to get started in the motion picture business and felt it’s best we leave New York City. He was offered a job with a bakery supply outfit in Pittsburgh and he took it.” Those were hard times for the family. For the first two years after graduating high school Henry Meyer started peddling his pies.
“In those Depression days I bought a dozen doughnuts for a dime. Today I buy them for $1.50 a dozen. Of course in those days, I sold a doughnut for a nickel, today I get a quarter,” said Meyer in 1983 in an interview with The Pittsburgh Press.
He shared a piece of history in that interview that the lovers of Prantl’s would appreciate: “In the early days the majority of the better bakers in Pittsburgh were either German immigrants or of German descent. My parents came from Germany, and the bakers and I had a certain kinship. They trusted me and I trusted them.”
What started out as a stop-gap effort to make it through the Depression years has turned out to be a profitable venture for Meyer, The Pittsburgh Press reported.
According to the newspaper article, with the profits from his doughnuts routes, Meyer married twice, bought a home near the CMU campus, educated his son at Pitt, drove a cadillac and owned a nice block of stock of Allegheny International Corp.
Times change. Today’s economy would hardly find a place for someone like Henry C. “Donut Man” Meyer.
He died in 2005 at age 99. “For many years, late at night, you could find Henry selling his doughnuts in front of Primanti Brother’s Restaurant in the Strip District,” Meyer’s obituary read.