Gene Timmer, owner of Dutch Girl Donuts in Detroit, dies at 75

Oralandar Brand-Williams and James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Gene Timmer, owner of Dutch Girl Donuts on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, died Friday, Sept, 17, 2021, surrounded by family.

He was 75.

Mr. Timmer had quietly battled cancer the last 1 1/2 years, said his daughter, Johanna Parrow. For the last six weeks, as his condition worsened, Mr. Timmer was hospitalized. 

His battle with cancer was so quiet that, the week of his death, his wife, Lauren Timmer, said: "You never told me you were this sick."

Gene Timmer

" ' I didn't want to worry you,' " Mr. Timmer said, Parrow recalled. "He comforted me when I was upset. He said, 'It's in the Lord's hands.' "

Mr. Timmer's death came just over two weeks after announcing the business was shutting its doors due to low staffing.

"I'd love to see what we could do to get it back open again," Parrow said. "But we can't make any promises."

Mr. Timmer was 6  months old when his family moved to Detroit from Grand Rapids and got into the Dutch Girl Donuts business. If the shop is open on New Year's Day 2022, Parrow said, it will be its 75th anniversary.

The venerable establishment drew patrons from around Metro Detroit and across the country.

Lauded as the Best Donut in the World, the little, unassuming blue-and-white donut shop is located at 19000 Woodward near Seven Mile.  

It was a popular stop for commuters who picked up Dutch Girl Donuts donuts for the office while others would pick up a dozen of their favorite confections to go on the way home.

The donuts drew devoted customers like Monay Davis, who wrote on the donut shop's Facebook page in September 2020 about the doughnuts. "SERIOUSLY, I drive 2 and half hours to come get (the) raisin donuts!"

The website Thrillist extolled the taste of Dutch Girl donuts in a review saying, "Dutch Girl Donuts may just have the best donuts in Detroit. Get the glazed crullers and the chocolate crullers and the glazed blueberry and the unglazed blueberry and most definitely the sour cream. And then return for more."

The store was closed for months in 2020 because of the pandemic, but it's also been dark during normal business hours from time to time throughout recent years.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Timmer is survived by son Jon; and daughter Arrie; two grandchildren

Mr. Timmer met his wife at the doughnut shop, Parrow said. Lauren was teaching school in Detroit and coming in regularly to buy day-old doughnuts for her students. The morning manager thought she and Mr. Timmer should meet. 

They did, and clicked, and their first date was a Rolling Stones concert. They were married 45 years, and spent almost all of it together, except for the past six weeks, when separated by their respective health woes.