Long-time owner of 107-year-old Dayton restaurant business dies at 71

If you dined at Dayton-area restaurants anytime between 1977 and 2014, chances are Donnie Tucker had something to do with how flavorful your meal was.

Tucker owned and operated 107-year-old Brucken Foods for 37 years until he sold the company in 2014. He died July 27 at the age of 71. A memorial service is scheduled for Aug. 10.

Brucken Foods traces its Dayton roots to 1913, when Louie Brucken started delivering pickles, spices and condiments from the back of a horse-drawn cart. Today, it still distributes spices, rubs, sauces and condiments to restaurants throughout the region, and it sells its products at retail at local grocery stores and online.

Donald “Donnie” Tucker fell into the ownership of the company under unusual circumstances. He agreed to take over the company in 1977 after the son of founder Louie Brucken died unexpectedly.

Keeping the business afloat was a struggle at times. “Needless to say, it is and has been a rough time for us in this difficult economy,” Tucker told me in a 2010 email. Two years later, he wrote in another email, “We are scraping and clawing to survive. Not sure of my company’s future.”

At its peak in the 1990s and early 2000s, Brucken Foods had five employees, Tucker said. But an economic downturn and the closing of iconic Dayton-area restaurants such as Dominic’s, The Tropics, Brown Derby, and The Colony Club, among others, cost Brucken Foods some of its regular accounts, prompting Tucker to launch the online retail side of the business.

He put the business up for sale in January 2014. “It’s time for me to go fishing,” Tucker told this news outlet at the time. Later that year, Tucker sold the company to the husband-and-wife entrepreneur team of Steve and Mary Lingg.

“We were very saddened to hear of Donnie’s passing,” Steve Lingg told this news outlet. “He was a very unique individual with an easygoing outlook on life. I never saw Donny in a bad mood, just always ready to deal with what was in front of him."

“Donnie had a great passion for Brucken Foods and its products. Mary and I continue to try to grow Brucken into what we and Donnie had envisioned. He always believed the company could become so much more. He will be missed by many.”

The company’s products include Brucken Foods signature steak seasoning (a “secret seasoning of some of the best steak restaurants in the Dayton area,” the company’s web site says), chicken and BBQ rub, barbecue sauce, hot fresh horseradish and spicy Dusseldorf mustard.

Tucker was known for “his giving nature, witty sense of humor, and (was) one of the greatest storytellers there ever was,” according to his online obituary. “Donnie was a lover of all music and could often be found strumming his guitar, singing original lyrics he compiled about life experiences. He enjoyed frequent fishing and golf trips with family and friends. Donnie will be missed by many but forgotten by few.”

Visitation will be held Aug. 10, from 10 a.m. to noon at Newcomer Cremations, Funerals & Receptions Beavercreek Chapel, 3380 Dayton-Xenia Road. A memorial service will be held at noon. Burial will be at Calvary Cemetery.

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