Ohio Icon: Madsen Donuts

Madsen Donuts, Geneva-on-the-Lake (Photo by Damaine Vonada)

Location: On the famous “Strip” (a.k.a. State Route 531) of attractions, eateries, and entertainment venues clustered near Geneva-on-the-Lake’s lengthy Lake Erie shoreline.

Provenance: In 1938, Carl Madsen and his wife, Isobel, opened a small donut shop in the summer resort community of Geneva-on-the-Lake. Thanks to Madsen’s delicious “secret” recipes and emphasis on quality, Madsen Donuts developed a loyal following and soon became a favorite stop for vacationers. Their childhood memories of making trips to Madsen Donuts prompted Harry and Bev Biery to buy the shop from Carl Madsen in 1974, and with help from their children, they devoted their summers to operating Madsen Donuts. Keith Biery, who was 5 years old when his parents purchased the shop, grew up making donuts and took over Madsen Donuts in 2005. Biery met his wife, Billie, at the donut shop, and along with their son and daughter, they continue to operate Madsen Donuts as a family business.

Significance: Celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2018, Madsen Donuts is an iconic Geneva-on-the-Lake destination, beloved by generations of families who have patronized the shop, as well as the many people who have worked there as teenagers. “Customers always tell us to never change the shop,” says Biery. “They want it to stay just the way it was when they were kids.”

Currently: Madsen Donuts offers five kinds of raised donuts and seven different cake donuts. As caretakers of Carl Madsen’s inimitable culinary legacy, the Bierys still use his original recipes, and to ensure freshness, the donuts are handmade throughout the day. From mixing and rolling to filling and glazing, customers love to watch the process. “You can see everything that happens in the kitchen, and that’s an attraction all by itself,” says Biery.

It’s a little-known fact that: Although Madsen Donuts is known for its special glazed cinnamon stick donut, the shop’s best-seller is its cream-filled stick donut.