John Markulis, an owner of Puritan Bakery in Carson, which has supplied breads and buns for more than 2,000 restaurants in California, including In-N-Out, Fatburger and Original Tommy's, died Sunday at 83 in a hospital in Torrance, the Orange County Register reported.
Markulis' bakery (whose tagline is "Best Buns in Town") provided the sponge-dough buns for many Southern California burger outlets, including In-N-Out. The family baked-goods business was started in Santa Monica in 1938, and Markulis joined as a partner in 1965. "John was a lifelong bread man, with an obsession for quality product, and first class customer service," Puritan's website says. He helped institute "special delivery" bread service in 1970, running deliveries seven days a week for orders large or small.
Markulis and founding-family partner Tom Grimes focused on serving Southern California's drive-through burger culture. "There are two ways you sell a product: eye appeal and taste appeal. And, with a hamburger, the first thing you do is taste a bun," Markulis told the Register in a 2011 article.
The factory, based in Carson since the '70s, makes more than 300 types of breads and buns. In-N-Out has used Puritan's specially formulated 4-inch buns since the 1950s.
"Not only are our hamburger buns absolutely delicious," Puritan's website says, "they are specially designed to stand up on the grill and will not fall apart when full of meat juices, dressings and condiments." It's a seven-hour process to make the buns, from sponge to final product.
Active in the Greek community, Markulis approached Greek restaurant owners, emphasizing the quality of his buns. "Since John Markulis joined the company as a partner in 1965," Puritan says, "much of our success can be attributed to our Greek friends," many of whom referred to Markulis by Yiannis O. Psomas -- John the Bread Man.
Marukulis is survived by his wife, two sons, two daughters, three brothers and 14 grandchildren.
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