Pause in front of the window of Old Fashioned Donuts in Roseland anytime between breakfast and dinner, and you will almost certainly find Buritt Bulloch at work. He might briefly glance up at you, but the doughnuts get his full attention. The 79-year-old works with a practiced rhythm—dropping one batch of them into the fryer, pivoting to ladle glaze over another, then turning back to the first batch to prod it along.
For 45 years as of this month, Bulloch—Mr. B to his customers—has been at this same window of the shop that long ago became an institution. In this era of Instagram-bait confections, Bulloch keeps it simple. He deals in yeast, flour, and hot oil. Rings, bismarcks, and holes. On a weekday, he’ll sell 200 dozen. On a Saturday, it’s closer to 300 dozen. Orders will come in for 25 or 30 dozen at a time from customers who’ve been eating his creations since the bakery opened. Pineapple-coconut might be his most exotic offering, the only-in-autumn apple cider doughnut his most fleeting. Ambitious patrons go for the massive apple fritter.
Why are they so good? Some say it’s the glaze. Bulloch says it’s the fresh dough, which he mixes up every morning. Employee Kenneth Turner says it’s the hands that matter, “especially when the boss makes [the doughnuts].”
Like many black Chicagoans of his generation, Bulloch was born in the South. He left Holly Springs, Mississippi, in the early 1960s and got a job at a West Rogers Park doughnut shop called Amy Joy, where he discovered he had a knack for dough. Seven years later, he moved to a Huck Finn shop, hoping to take it over one day. But when his boss finally asked him to, Bulloch had a family and a following. “People said, ‘Jeez, your baking is so good you could open your own place,’ ” he recalls. In 1972, he did, on a strip (his shop is at 11248 S. Michigan Ave.) that already had a few mom-and-pop bakeries. Old Fashioned outlasted them all.
“Some people, when they open up a store, they get their people to maintain it, whereas he’s here every day—every day—sunup to sundown,” says Bulloch’s younger daughter, Michelle, who works the day shift. His older daughter, Tina, manages the store, and his nephew Donny handles overnights. And now a third generation is coming aboard: Michelle’s daughter, Drejauna, works the counter part-time.
In light of all that help, one could argue that Bulloch doesn’t have to be at the fryer all day. But where else would he be? he asks. “I think I’m good for another 20 years.”
No one’s sure where Bulloch gets his stamina, though it’s worth mentioning that he rarely indulges in his product. “I eat a doughnut hole once in a while,” he says. “But I eat cookies at home.”