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Sue Forgatch (center), owner of the Dixie Cream Donut shop in Herrin, talks with employees Cecily Smith (left) and Tyler Akins on Thursday morning. Forgatch's late husband Gene opened the original Dixie Cream in West Frankfort in 1955.

HERRIN — Sue Forgatch, owner of Dixie Cream Donuts, said a new location in Herrin is the fulfillment of a request made by her late husband, Gene, founder of Dixie Cream Donuts in West Frankfort.

She said the story really began long before the new location opened at 713 S. Park Ave. earlier this month.

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Dixie Cream Donuts recently opened a new location in Herrin at 713 S. Park Avenue.

Sue and Gene Forgatch met while they were still in high school. He asked to walk her home.

“If a boy asked to walk you home, it was a big deal,” Sue Forgatch said. “And Gene Forgatch talked about nothing but how he wanted to own a business.”

At the time, Sue Forgatch couldn’t care less about business. She went to board school in Kentucky and he went to Miami Beach.

The couple married April 12, 1951, before Gene Forgatch was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. He told Sue he might not make it back. Many young men were killed in the war. Sue would get $10,000 if he did not return, and Gene said that would give her money to buy a car.

Gene did return, and Sue joined him in Colorado Springs. When he was discharged, they both found jobs in Chicago. She lost her job when she became pregnant with their oldest son, Steve. Sue stayed home with their son and took him on weekly outings to the art museum and Museum of Science and Industry.

“Gene liked the job, but not Chicago. I loved Chicago,” Sue Forgatch said.

But, Gene had to come home.

Back in West Frankfort, they started Dixie Cream Donuts in 1955 in his grandmother’s old grocery store building at 510 W. Main St. Gene made trips to the Dixie Cream Donut Flour company in St. Louis each week to get flour. The business and its reach grew.

“Gene did know what he was doing. We sent six children to college. I went to college. By the 1970s, we could travel,” Sue Forgatch said.

In 2004, they built a new building and expanded the business to include a deli.

“When Gene started having less energy, we found out he had prostate cancer. He kept going and said that they needed to do another donut shop,” Sue Forgatch said, adding that he spent one afternoon in Herrin talking to real estate people.

Sue said his cancer progressed and he was on hospice care when he told her to “take care of that business and take care of those kids.”

After he died on Feb. 9, 2016, she went looking for a location for a new doughnut shop. She walked into Herrin City Hall and asked to speak to the city’s economic development person. Mayor Steve Frattini sat down and talked to her.

“He was not good, he was perfect,” Sue Forgatch said.

A new location was chosen at 713 S. Park Ave. After some remodeling by Roger Williams of M & W Contracting, the shop was ready to go.

The store is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. They offer doughnuts, sweet treats, sandwiches, coffee and other drinks. A drive-through is in the works, but is not open yet.

“Is this what Gene wanted to do? Yes. I did it for him. I’m proud of what he accomplished. I was able to write a check for this property and do it without involving a bank,” Sue Forgatch said.

Sue and Gene’s three sons now work in the business at the West Frankfort location, as well as one of their daughters. Their doughnut shops have 42 employees, seven or eight of them in Herrin.

Sue says she stays out of the back room at West Frankfort (where the doughnuts are made). She is a people person. Gene had a “head for business.”

“I love talking about Gene. We knew we were different, but we were a team. I think we still are,” Sue Forgatch said.

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Reporter

Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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