October 15, 1915|
Las Vegas, Nevada|
|Cause of death||Heart attack|
San Marino, California|
Las Vegas, Nevada
|Education||Alhambra High School, Pasadena City College|
|Known for||Founder of Winchell's Donuts|
Vernon Hedges "Verne" Winchell (October 15, 1915 – November 26, 2002) was the founder of Winchell's Donuts.
On October 8, 1948 he opened his first donut shop in Temple City, California and earned the nickname "The Donut King" while making a fortune with a chain of Winchell's-branded donut shops in the western United States during the 1940s and 1950s. He sold his interest in the company for $600 million in 1984 and became chairman of Denny's Restaurants for several years. Winchell was also a successful horse breeder and owner.
Verne Winchell died on November 26, 2002 of a heart attack at the age of 87 at Summerlin Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas. Family members said he collapsed after exercising on the treadmill at his home.
Winchell had retired as chief executive and president of Denny's Inc., which bought Winchell's Donut Houses in 1968.
Born in Bloomington, Illinois, Winchell and his family moved to California when he was 9 years old. He graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Pasadena City College.
Before starting his lucrative doughnut franchise, he tried selling jukeboxes and used cars in the 1950s. A friend suggested opening a doughnut store because there was a high profit margin. Winchell took a $27,000 stake and turned a piece of commercial property he owned into his first store.
The shops were highly successful and it wasn't too long before Winchell expanded his operation throughout California. In 1976, according to BusinessWeek magazine, sales at Winchell's nationwide were $99 million, although the chain was by then a distant second to Dunkin' Donuts.
Winchell eventually sold his business to Denny's in exchange for stock. In 1970, he became chairman of Denny's Restaurants.
Fourteen years later, Winchell left the doughnut and restaurant business when he sold his Denny's stock for a reported $600 million.
Ron Winchell, Verne Winchell's son began a chain of Restaurants in the Las Vegas area named "Winchell's Pub and Grill". First restaurant opened in South Las Vegas back in 2000. Later on, he expanded the chain by opening 2 more restaurants in 2003. One in South Las Vegas, and one in North Las Vegas. The Winchell legacy continues as today, July 18, 2008, Ron Winchell opens up yet another restaurant in North Las Vegas with plans to open up 2 more restaurants in a few months.
A fan of thoroughbred horse racing, Verne Winchell bred more than sixty stakes winners and raced more than forty. Among those horses, Olympio won the 1991 American Derby. He bred and raced two Champions: Mira Femme, the 1966 American Co-Champion Two-Year-Old Filly, and Tight Spot, voted the 1991 American Champion Male Turf Horse. Winchell also had three starters in the Kentucky Derby: Classic Go Go, who finished fourth in 1981; Sea Cadet, who finished eighth in 1991; and Valiant Nature, who finished 13th in 1994. Sea Cadet, known as the "tailess wonder", won important Grade 1 races such as 1992's and Gulfstream Park and Donn Handicaps.
Donut King, the first horse Winchell bought at auction, was among the favorites for the 1954 Kentucky Derby but was injured the week of the race and didn't run. Ronnie's Baby, which was co-bred with Ronald Reagan and purchased in 1958 from Desi Arnaz, did not race to a high level.
Following his death, wife Joan and son Ron Winchell continue to race under Winchell Thoroughbreds.