Spokane Journal of Business

Delicious developments in Spokane’s doughnut scene

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-Alla Drokina
Brooke Haugen, foreground, and Emily Connery prepare the Cocolala doughnut at Hello Sugar, in Spokane’s Kendall Yards neighborhood.

At the altar of our taste buds, it’s justifiable to sacrifice self-control. In the midst of a doughnut shop, for many, moderation becomes an enemy to be spurned at all costs, like an ex one wants to avoid. Eyeing an array of glucose coated circular treats can leave even the strongest asking, “Moderation, who?” Sorry, never met.

And although scones, muffins and even croissants are arguably universally appealing, it’s difficult to think of a saccharine pastry so characteristically American as a doughnut.

In Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, roughly a dozen--no pun intended--independent doughnut shops operate, in addition to chains such as Krispy Kreme. Hello Sugar and Amy’s Donuts are among the newcomers, with Donut Parade slated to reopen again. 

Amy’s Donuts, a small chain that started in Colorado Springs Colo., makes over 130 variations of doughnuts at its shop at 11519 E. Sprague.

Since its opening in November, at the shop any doughnut with bacon on it has been a best seller, says Jamillah Dotson, one of the supervisors at Amy’s Donuts.

Almost any chocolate bar to grace America’s shelves can be found at Amy’s Donuts in the form of a doughnut. There are classics, and then there are interesting aberrations. The Elvis doughnut, based on the singer’s alleged favorite sandwich, has peanut butter, banana chips, fudge, and bacon.

Dotson says the secret to keeping the doughnuts tasting fresh is to put cereal toppings on doughnuts or infuse cream into doughnuts at the time of order instead of keeping them incased all day. This prevents a stale or soggy taste. Customers can try a dozen doughnuts for $24, and preorder is available online.

Hello Sugar, at 419 N Nettleton, specializes in miniscule doughnuts. 

“Millennials, we especially like things smaller than they should be. It’s whimsical and fun. They’re easy to justify,” says Emily Connery, lead doughnut slinger at Hello Sugar.

It’s hard to find a metric for how many mini doughnuts make up a regular size doughnut, but it may as well be half a dozen Hello Sugar doughnuts priced at $6, with a dozen priced at $8.

Amy Staton, co-owner of Hello Sugar, says coming to the shop is an all-encompassing experience. Customers can order Indaba coffee and watch as their doughnuts are prepared. Hello Sugar creates themed weeks and uses Instagram to get the word out.

Staton says the shop, which opened June 2018, could barely keep up with the lines during the week it made around 38,600 Harry Potter-themed doughnuts in November.

Hello Sugar recently hosted “Donut Mifflin” week, a play on words for the paper company Dunder Mifflin in the hit TV series “The Office.” Fans of the show would recognize doughnuts that harken to certain characters, such as the plain doughnut inspired by the character Toby Flenderson.

Staton wants to make TV week an annual tradition and hints there might be a Star Wars theme coming up in May, tapping into the prevalent “May the fourth be with you” quote in pop culture.

At Hello Sugar, customers get excited about a secret menu, says Staton, divulging a clandestine doughnut--strawberry lemonade, made with fresh lemon.

As a 32-year-old business owner, Staton says she’s aware of what appeals to a younger demographic and part of that is having a grasp on the pulse of culture and creating engagement. Staton says Hello Sugar is continually seeing new customers and majority of them are in their early 20s.

Staton attempts to answer the reason for our culture’s doughnut fanaticism.

“Obviously they taste amazing, but it’s a great breakfast dessert experience,” Staton says.

Staton describes how during World War II females known as “doughnut dollies” would serve doughnuts and coffee to men on the war front. She explains that doughnuts existed in America’s history long before they become a modern trend. 

Staton’s favorite doughnut in all of Spokane is the maple bar from Mike’s Old Fashioned Donuts, at 9219 E Sprague, because she says it tastes like natural maple syrup.

“Community, not competition, is really important to us,” Staton says. “We just believe that if everyone is thriving in the community, then we all benefit from that.”

Casual Friday Donuts, located at 3402 N. Division and open since 2014, makes around 200 to 400 doughnuts a day, says employee Jacob Sanchez. That number totals at least 73,000 doughnuts per year. 

Sanchez recalls a day when a customer took a taxi from a jailhouse to purchase a maple bar at Casual Friday Donuts. The man told him he got out of jail, and all he could think about was maple bars. He only had enough money for a taxi and a doughnut, and he was on a mission. Sanchez gave him the doughnut for free.

“If you come in here with a cup of coffee and a maple bar, you’re going to have a good day,” Sanchez says.

The M.O.A.D., aka mother of all doughnuts, cronut remains one of Casual Friday’s special menu items. Drizzled with chocolate and maple syrup, the croissant doughnut hybrid has layers of pastry dough laden with butter.

Like most doughnut vendors, the shop also creates seasonal and boozy flavors like the upcoming Irish cream whiskey and chocolate Guinness treats planned around St. Patrick’s Day. Depending on which doughnuts are selected prices range from $15 to $30 for a dozen.

But why the doughnut craze in Spokane?

“It’s a classic American treat. I don’t think there’s anything more American than a doughnut,” Sanchez says.

For Sanchez, the perfect doughnut must have consistency with shape, icing ratio, and toppings. He says there needs to be a little bit of topping in each bite.

At Amy’s Donuts, glazed doughnuts  enthusiast Helen Crawford sits at a hot pink and orange booth and says she isn’t enamored by all the sprinkles and accoutrements that might dazzle others, nor is she put off by them. At every doughnut shop she visits, Crawford sticks to a strategy. She only buys glazed doughnuts. However, if Crawford’s husband is with her, she selects a unique flavor for him to get, so she can have a taste. For Crawford, finding the perfect glazed doughnut is akin to a ritual.

“I look forward to sitting down with that fresh doughnut. I was waiting for that first bite, and it was heavenly.” she says.

Crawford doesn’t like most doughnut chains, because she says their doughnuts can be “overpoweringly sweet, almost mushy.”

“I’ve been waiting for a shop like this to open,” Crawford says.

At Amy’s Donuts, employees use a torch in the back to complete orders of creme brulee doughnuts and s’mores doughnuts. 

Alison Ratliff, manager at Amy’s Donuts, says the obsession for doughnuts is because they cater to all preferences and tastes.

“There’s so many different kinds, different flavors. There’s an option for everyone,” Ratliff says. “Even me, I don’t like sweets that much, but it gets me.”

Alla Drokina
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Before Alla started as a reporter with the Journal in 2019, she freelanced for The Pacific Northwest Inlander mostly covering culture and food. A breakfast enthusiast, she appreciates the simple things in life like cozy nooks, mystery podcasts, and 90s sitcoms.

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