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The demise of the Donut

for The Brooklyn Paper
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After 32 years of slinging omelets, pancakes, home-fries, donuts and pouring mug upon mug of affordable coffee, the Foops family has finally shut down its beloved old-school diner, the Donut Coffee Shop on Fifth Avenue.

“Most of the places that made the neighborhood distinctive to longtime residents are disappeari­ng,” one customer who didn’t want his name used told owner Chris Foops, who has been running the store for 10 years, succeeding his father, Nick.

That nameless customer wasn’t the only one sad to see the donut diner go. All day long on Friday, regulars stopped by to sit at the counter for one last cup of joe and plenty of memories.

“Chris gave me my first cup of coffee,” said Steven LoPolito, who has lived around the corner from the shop since 1977.

His defining moment in the shop came not long afterwards when Nick recognized him right away.

“‘Three eggs over, whole wheat, home fries!’ he said to me,” LaPolito said. “This place had roots. It dug in.”

Another customer who had been coming to the shop even before the Foopses bought it stuck his head in the door and screamed in, “You’re the best. The best!”

Meanwhile, others took to the Internet to lament the loss to the neighborhood.

“I am sad, sad, sad that another nice old place with simple foods and no $4 lattes, is closing,” one anonymous blogger wrote on Brooklynometry. “All I can say is there goes the neighborho­od.”

But Donut Coffee Shop was more than just a respite from the Tea Lounges, the Cocoa Bars, the Al Di Las of Park Slope. For LoPolito, Donut wasn’t merely a cheap diner, but a place that “connected him to the neighborhood” — at least the one in his memories.

Another customer, a Brooklyn psychologist who had been a regular for seven years, empathized with LoPolito, but noted the number of new shops that have been able to root out their own niches. She discussed how difficult it is for communities to have growth and keep the businesses that make them unique.

“It’s what makes ‘gentrifica­tion’ a bad word,” she said.

Perhaps, but gentrification is not the villain here. The Donut Shop — and its neighbor, the pan-Latino restaurant Beso — is not closing because of a rent hike or a loss of clientele, but because it being absorbed into the Associated grocery store as part of an expansion of that hardly upscale food market.

Updated 4:34 pm, July 9, 2018
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