Established at GOTL in 1938 by Carl and Isobel Madsen, the original Madsen Donuts was in Niles, Ohio, where the Madsens lived. After finding success in the resort village, the couple purchased a home on Mapleton Beach (Sturgeon Point) and became very involved in civic and business affairs.
Carl G. Madsen was a native of Litchfield, Minn. His travels took him to Florida, where he had doughnut shops at Pass-a-Grille and St. Petersburg. Sugar rationing in World War II forced Madsen and his partner to close those businesses and focus on the shop at the lake resort.
Madsen’s wife, Isobel, was an artist and taught art in Youngstown and Pass-a-Grille. The couple had two sons, Carl Jr., also known as Duff, and Kris. Carl G. Madsen Jr. was a psychiatrist in Lafayette, Indiana.
The senior Madsen was councilman for many years and served as mayor. His focus was on the beach erosion issue, and he pioneered control measures by having two jetties built at Mapleton Beach, where he was president of the association.
Madsen was a beloved figure in the village and referred to as “Pappy.” One explanation for his nickname is that he was a second father to the many young persons who got their start in the world of work by folding doughnut boxes in the back of the shop. Madsen often hand-picked his youthful workers from the families who lived at GOTL. The younger workers typically worked afternoons at the shop, while the morning shift was taken by older adults.
A stickler for details and procedures, Madsen insisted that his employees follow those mandates. Madsen had a reputation to maintain for providing a unique, quality product that depended upon adherence to those procedures.
It has been said, and verified by employees and subsequent owners, that Carl Madsen developed his own recipes utilizing “secret ingredients” that set his product apart. These guarded recipes have transferred with the business so the Madsen name and product remain aligned and continue to satisfy both long-time customers and newcomers.