Bob and Edna Demery stand inside the Dunkin' Donuts on Main Street in East Hartford this week. It was the chain's first store in Connecticut; Bob Demery bought it in 1961. He met Edna when he hired her to run another Dunkin' Donuts he bought in Hartford in 1965. He sold his last store in 1990. (Rick Hartford / The Hartford Courant)

Anne Hamilton of the Hartford Courant reports that Doughnuts and Bob Demery are as intertwined as a DNA double-helix, starting when he was a Boston paperboy and sold doughnuts on the side, and continuing until he became the first Dunkin’ Donuts owner to hit $1 million in sales.

As the company celebrates the 60th anniversary of its founding by William Rosenberg in Quincy, Mass., Demery looks at the changes since he bought his first stores in 1961. There are about a dozen kinds of coffee, bagels, ham-and-Swiss sandwiches and calorie-conscious choices like egg-white sandwiches. There is a Dunkin’ management school for new owners.

Things were different in 1961. Demery was 20, and had three years of experience with Dunkin’ as a night baker and a manager.

When Dunkin’ sent him to Connecticut to manage two failing stores, he wanted none of it. One of them, in East Hartford, was the franchise’s first store in the state.

“Things looked pretty bad here,” Demery said, so the company asked if he’d prefer to buy the stores himself.

Ownership was a different matter. With no money down, a $32,000 franchise fee that could be paid over time and rent that amounted to 6 percent of sales, ownership was a risk worth taking, he said. Demery became the company’s youngest franchise owner.

He soon turned things around. Pratt & Whitney, with its 24-hour-a-day customer base, was just down Main Street from the East Hartford store. His store on Albany Avenue in Hartford closed in 1968.

In 1965, he bought another store in Hartford, and found a night manager, Edna Pratt. Ten years later, their partnership became official when they dashed off to city hall to get married.

Demery, who eventually owned 12 stores around the state, got out of the doughnut business gradually. He sold his last store in 1990.

The couple operated a restaurant, Demerys, in Bloomfield, for seven years, and today they work in the catering department at The Crown Market in West Hartford.

Breakfast now consists of cottage cheese.

Demery has lost count of how many million doughnuts he sold over nearly 30 years, but said his management philosophy never changed: “You can generally do better by being positive,” he said. “Only be critical when you have to be.”