Get to know D.C. with our daily newsletter
We dive deep on the day’s biggest story and share links to everything you need to know.
This week’s question comes from City Paper webmeister Dave Nuttycombe, who wants to know:
“Just experienced a hot hand-dipped doughnut this afternoon at the oddly-named Fractured Prune. It’s apparently a chain, but I’d never heard of it….Has a supposed-to-be-cute story about the name—came from a feisty 19th century woman who beat men at sports. Or something. I was too busy devouring the doughnut. WTF?”
This is a sad week for me and many others here at the City Paper. Dave Nuttycombe is leaving the paper after 16 years of doing everything from typesetting to video blogs to organizing Nosh Mobs. Okay, he’s not exactly leaving; there simply was no room at the Loaf Daze Inn for a guy who can do anything, including posting what may be the funniest City Desk item ever (certainly the most vicious one directed toward a family member).
Well, apparently Dave can do anything but log onto the goddamn Internet. The Fractured Prune Web site has an entire page dedicated to its strange name:
Back in 1976 when Tom Parshall purchased Josh’s 46th Street Market, he was thinking about a new name for his enterprise. Several friends gave him suggestions, but he felt they all lacked imagination & individuality. He had been reading through the abstract of the land he purchased, and an unusual name caught his eye. Back in the late 1800’s a woman named Prunella Shriek had owned much of the land in that area. Tom didn’t think too much about it until one day he was browsing through the Baltimore Library and came across a book titled Ocean City Love. As he looked through it, he was thrilled to see Prunella Shriek’s name with a paragraph devoted to her.
Even though she was in her seventies, she was the only woman who competed with men in traditionally men’s sports such as ice skating races & skiing competitions. She was an excellent tennis player, and was county ping-pong champion circa 1895. Being older and somewhat brittle, she often returned from some of the more vigorous competitions in a wheel chair or on crutches. Thus the townspeople began lovingly to refer to her as “Fractured Prunella.” When Tom read this, a voice in his head said, “Hello”, he would name his enterprise after this wonderful & spunky old lady, and call it “The Fractured Prune® .”
I decided to call up the current owner, Sandy Tylor, and find out whether the story was fact or just marketing BS. “That’s what was told to me when I purchased it,” says Tylor, who bought the small-but-delicious doughnut chain in 1994 with her daughter and son-in-law. “That’s what I tell people.”
The truth is, after 13 years, she’s a little tired of telling the story, since people ask about it every damn day. (Thanks, Dave.) So each franchisee has a poster explaining the legend; some even have it printed on the back of their menu. Tylor calls it “absolutely the best marketing in the world.”
If you’ve never tasted one of Fractured Prunes’ doughnuts—each hand-dipped in house-made glazes and sprinkled with all manner of colorful toppings—you’re out of luck finding one in the District. At least for awhile. The location on P Street NW closed down earlier this year, not only because of ongoing construction in the Dupont Circle neighborhood but also because the franchisee needed to devote time to an ill family member.
The franchisee “does have the right to open in the District, reopen if he chooses to,” Tylor says, but don’t look for it anytime soon. Others have also expressed interest in opening a franchise in the District, but Tylor acknowledges that it’s “a long process for them to go through and be approved.”
In the meantime, you’ll have to get your Prune fix at the Maryland or Virginia locations.
You didn’t ask for this info, Dave, but I thought I’d give readers something they couldn’t find on the Internet.