- ABOUT US
Jeff Richards serves more than delicious burgers. In 2015, KFOR recognized his generosity in serving the hungry as part of their “Pay It 4Ward” segment.
Photo by LORI DUCKWORTH
For decades, Geronimo’s Bakery has turned out some of the tastiest eats on Oklahoma City’s east side.
By Greg Elwell
Published January/February 2018
The smell of glaze hits customers the second they enter Geronimo’s Bakery just a moment before they see owner Jeff Richards’ smiling face. A pair of wall-mounted air conditioners and upright fans keep the sweet scent of fried dough circulating in the tiny building’s entryway, while Richards and his customers keep the conversation moving just as briskly.
“Sometimes, it gets to be like a barbershop,” he says.
Seating is limited—there are a pair of stools by a small counter and chairs lining the walls for customers waiting for an order—but the mood is jovial. That comes from Richards, who is working the only job he’s ever had.
In 1972, Raymond and Amanda Richards, Jeff’s parents, opened Geronimo’s in Oklahoma City, and it’s been the family business ever since. Jeff’s three brothers—including Geronimo, for whom the doughnut shop was named—and two sisters all took turns working in the restaurant. The rest of the siblings became nurses and firefighters and joined the military, but Jeff is happy he’s stayed to look after the place since 1990. After all, it was behind that counter where he met his wife, Willette.
“She was a counselor at the YMCA down the street,” he says. “It’s still a family business. My wife, nephew, cousin, daughter, and son-in-law work here now.”
Someday, Jeff’s family will take over. Son-in-law Renaldo Hopkins comes in late at night to make the doughnuts before leaving for his day job, and Jeff’s daughter Natasha works at Geronimo’s during the weekends.
Until then, Richards is happy watching the ebb and flow of customers in the shop six days a week. In the mornings, the big, tender cake doughnuts bring customers in. The selection is limited to glazed or chocolate, doughnut holes, and enormous cinnamon rolls. Though there are other nearby doughnut shops, Geronimo’s has a fiercely loyal following. Tyral Hayes remembers visiting Geronimo’s for doughnuts before school with his mom. These days, he orders the Texas cinnamon rolls, which are big enough to feed his family.
“It’s a staple of the community,” he says. “I’ve been coming here thirty-five years. It’s like a kid’s paradise.”
The sugary glaze of the doughnut holes melts on the tongue, exposing the moist cake underneath. It’s a simple recipe, but one honed to perfection with much practice. Richards says the morning confections are popular, but by far the biggest seller is the hamburgers.
“Initially, it was just a bakery, but that wasn’t cutting it,” he says. “Mom said, ‘Let’s sell hot dogs and hot links.’”
The menu expanded over the years to include ham and cheese sandwiches, fried catfish, and several varieties of burgers. Perhaps the most intriguing option is the Geronimo Burger. A challenge for even the biggest of mouths, a Geronimo Burger is a double cheeseburger with all the usual fixings—lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion—and a pile of thinly sliced and griddle-fried ham all on a toasted bun. But the burgers are all good, says Terry Muhammad. “I always get the burger,” Muhammad says. “Everybody loves an old-fashioned burger. It reminds me of the burgers I ate when I was growing up.”
Richards’ secret delight is the foot-long chili cheese coney, though. It’s hard to resist a coney slathered in homemade chili and cheese—a gooey masterpiece that requires more than a few napkins.
“I shouldn’t be eating too many of them these days,” he says. “Have one here, and you’ll never eat another one at Sonic.”
The neighborhood long has supported Geronimo’s, both as a restaurant and as a hub for community members to meet. Of course, plenty of business comes from the surrounding area, Richards says. “Most come from around here, but we get people from all over,” Richards says. “One lady used to buy doughnuts to ship to her son overseas.”
But while Geronimo’s may have an international following, the best experience is always walking into the shop, smelling the freshly glazed doughnuts and seeing Richard’s smiling face as he asks how he can help.
Geronimo’s Bakery, 1817 North Martin Luther King Avenue in Oklahoma City, (405) 427-5893.