John Stefanek has been going to Buckeye Donuts every day since 1969.
“I saw this doughnut shop and I thought, ‘Oh, boy!’ and I’ve been coming here ever since,” Stefanek said. He sits in the same chair he first did 47 years ago.
Just like many alumni, Stefanek has watched campus evolve over the years.
As High Street renovates to fit modern consumer preferences, the restaurant, which has been family-owned for three generations, remains and serves the same doughnut recipe since its opening in 1969.
This month, the restaurant trade magazine QSR named the restaurant, located at 1998 N. High St., one of the top 10 most iconic college restaurants in America.
Set up like an old-fashioned diner, with black and white pictures decorating the flier-filled walls, the U-shaped stool setup of Buckeye Donuts is one that owner Jimmy Barouxis said invokes a unique sense of community different from the one-party-per table setup.
“When local bars and restaurants form a deep history on campus, they become a part of the experience and a rite of passage,” Aubre Andrus, author of the QSR article, said in an e-mail.
David Kellough, the University District’s unofficial resident historian, said he sees the value in traditions like Buckeye Donuts.
“On a football Saturday, you see alumni lined up outside with their young kids, introducing them to the place they used to go 10, 20 or 30 years ago,” Kellough said in an email. “It was something that mattered enough to them that they want to go back, and they want to share it.”
Former Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes was one of those alumni who frequented Buckeye Donuts.
“I didn’t know who the guy was,” said Toula Barouxis, mother of current owner Jimmy Barouxis and server at the time. “(He ordered a) peanut cake donut and coffee with cream three days a week.”
Once when Toula Barouxis was on her break, a regular customer who she only knew by face asked for her. Her husband later told her that she had been serving Woody Hayes.
Jimmy Barouxis said he has also seen his fair share of celebrities pass through Buckeye Donuts. He is able to point to the exact seats where celebrities, including Prince, have sat. More recent famous guests include members of the Black Keys and the Arctic Monkeys.
While many celebrities have walked through Buckeye Donuts’ doors over the years, Jimmy Barouxis said it is the restaurant’s history that matters.
“There’s this legacy of not just multiple generations of owners, but multiple generations of customers,” said Nicholas Dekker, OSU alumni and author of the blog, “Breakfast with Nick.”
Dekker has taken multiple people on restaurant tours and said he is sure to stop at Buckeye Donuts to appreciate the old-fashioned culture.
Jimmy Barouxis said he is proud of the history surrounding Buckeye Donuts.
“(The stools are) the original stools from 1969,” Jimmy Barouxis said. “Millions have sat on these stools. All kinds of people. All faces of life.”
However, he said remaining the same on a street that is constantly changing has not been easy.
While Jimmy Barouxis said the line stretched out the door in the 1970s, the switch that many people made from donuts to bagels in the 1990s took significant business from Buckeye Donuts. Jimmy Barouxis said the addition of a kitchen and gyros to the menu in 2002 helped business rebound, and Buckeye Donuts has since been in a good place.
“The odds of this place making it from all of the ups and downs of everything, we are like the statistical anomaly,” Jimmy Barouxis said.
While Buckeye Donuts has received offers to be bought out by other companies — as recently as Oct. 19 — the family does not see any sum of money worth trading for their legacy.
“In a way it’s like a museum,” he said. “We’re going to be the last business standing.”