On October 8, 1948 he opened his first donut shop in Temple City, California and earned the nickname "The Donut King" while making a fortune with a chain of Winchell's-branded donut shops in the western United States during the 1940s and 1950s. He sold his interest in the company for $600 million in 1984 and became chairman of Denny's Restaurants for several years. Winchell was also a successful horse breeder and owner. One of his colts, named "Donut King", was one of the favorites for the 1962 Kentucky Derby. Verne Winchell died of a heart attack at the age of 87.