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Farewell, 'Punkin' Donuts'

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 20, 2015 11:00PM

Growing up in Chicago in the mid-80s my friends and I let each other know our locations in simple terms. "Hero's" was (and still is) the submarine shop located across the street from Lane Tech High School; "the Brickyard" and "the HIP" referred to Brickyard Mall and Harlem-Irving Plaza shopping center; "Wax Trax" was, of course, Wax Trax Records; "Rolling Stones" was Rolling Stones Records in Norridge; "Medusa's" was the legendary Lakeview nightclub. These described locations, served as havens of nightlife, helped me fight teenage ennui and laid out a social hierarchy, often simultaneously.

For thousands of Chicago teens and young adults, so did "Punkin' Donuts."

The Dunkin' Donuts on Clark and Belmont earned that moniker for the hordes of teens who would loiter outside in the parking lot, steps from Medusa's and right next to The Alley, back when that establishment was only a head shop, didn't take up half a city block and Lakeview was years from the gentrification that would rob the neighborhood of much of its character. Like hanging around Wrigley Field after a Cubs game, my family warned me against being caught at Punkin' Donuts after dark. Which only made me want to visit there more—I was more of a metalhead who hung at Rolling Stones but I understood these were just kids who wanted to fit in somewhere. The Punkin' Donuts gave them a sense of identity and a place to fit in, under the shadow cast by bad doughnuts. And it was vibrant and alive with energy!

Then the Cubs installed lights at Wrigley Field and people who had easy access to buses and trains to commute to work or school started buying homes and condos nearby, and didn't try to hide their faces as they bough one-hitters, pipes and dildos at The Alley. Medusa's closed and clubs with varying degrees of quality such as the Avalon and Clubland failed to fill the void. And more people bought homes. Suddenly the Punkin' Donuts wasn't tolerated anymore. The parking lot was fenced in to prevent the kids from loitering and the police made their presence known at all hours of the day.

Soon, it will all be gone. Demolition started this week on the northwest corner of Belmont and Clark on what will eventually become a mixed-use, transit oriented building.

The Punkin' Donuts has a date with the wrecking ball.

Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield is hosting "A Last Goodbye to Punkin' Donuts" 8 p.m. tonight. If you can and care, join him for one last hot chocolate and Boston cream doughnut in the parking lot, then head across the street to the L&L Tavern for some Malort.