Spokane Journal of Business

Kneading dough into dough

Donut Parade hopes to double sales by January

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The products that come out of a nondescript brick building in Spokanes Logan neighborhood are full of holes, but the business that makes them is solid. Its focus is producing one perfectly palatable pastrythe doughnut.


Sue Teague and her husband, David, launched Donut Parade Wholesale there in August 1997. Within two months the bakery doubled its client base and, consequently, its profits, Sue Teague says. The company now grosses $10,000 a month, she says, adding, We hope to double that by Jan. 1.


Teague is no stranger to the doughnut. Her parents, Darrell and Kathy Jones, own a doughnut shop here called Donut Parade, which they started in 1968. Teague was 10 years old then. At age 11, she began working for the business.


The Jones retail shop, which has been located at the northeast corner of Illinois Avenue and Hamilton Street since 1973, sports a tall yellow sign that just says, Donuts. Donut Parade Wholesale occupies about 1,100 square feet of space at 2160 N. Hamilton, just north of the Donut Parade store. The aging exterior of the adjoining buildings that house both businesses contrasts sharply with the bright white interior of the wholesale bakery and the sweet smell of the creations cooking in a kettle there.


Two tall windows near the front door let in warm natural light and reflect off sparkling stainless steel equipment. There also is a small area near the front door with a couch and a TV, so that during busy times the bakerys small staff can bring their children in, Teague says.


Teague, who is the mother of four children, points to a sign on the bakerys refrigerator that says, The only thing more overrated than natural childbirth is owning your own business. The food industry is as demanding as a child, Teague says. It can be such a runaway freight train. You live it, breathe it. It owns you.


She says she originally wanted to open a bakery that made cakes and muffins. However, her husband, who was an accountant for 20 years before donning a white bakers coat, convinced her that producing doughnuts would be more profitable. Spokane was hungry for wholesale doughnuts, she says citing a lack of providers in the Spokane area at that time. Muffins, cookies, and bagels all have had their turn as fads, but doughnuts have been around for 150 years, Teague says.


The Teagues advertised their new venture by handing out flyers and samples to companies throughout Spokane. They were the companys only employees initially. They would start baking doughnuts at 1 a.m. and finish at 5 a.m. Then they would hop in their two cars and deliver all of the doughnuts, which would take another hour and a half.


The odd hours were a big change for Sue Teague, who had been a stay-at-home mom for 10 years. She says she would get up after two or three hours of sleep to drive her daughter to school and later wouldnt be able to remember the drive.


Dave gets an entrepreneurial idea and acts on it within 60 days, Teague says. It can be scary. What kept her going? The fear of failure can drive you, she says.


In October 1997, two months after the Teagues launched the business, Donut Parade Wholesale landed its biggest accountSodexho Marriott Services Inc., a big Washington, D.C.-based food services company. Through Marriott, Donut Parade Wholesale was able to distribute its products to some large clients, including Gonzaga University, and the Spokesman-Review. That arrangement, which is continuing today, doubled the small bakerys orders, Teague says. Today, Donut Parade Wholesale produces an average of 110 dozen doughnuts a day, she says.


The companys doughnuts also are sold at Spokanes Starbucks outlets and Spokane-area hotels and motels. Lewis & Clark High School recently ordered 40 dozen doughnuts for a National Honor Society event, Teague says. The company also delivers doughnuts to Spokanes Eagle Hardware & Garden Inc. outlets.


October is the biggest doughnut month of the year, Teague says. It isnt unusual to see (business) double, especially the week of Halloween. She attributes the increased orders to the fact that doughnuts are such a recognized treat.


Trying to keep up with all the orders began to take its toll. We realized we couldnt continue to come in at 7 p.m. and work until 3 or 4 a.m., which is what the hours had grown to, Teague says. So the Teagues hired two delivery people to carry part of the load, she says.


They now have built up their business enough to step away from production and focus on the management side of the business. They have sold part of their interest in the company to Sue Teagues younger sister, Tracy Biernat, and her husband, Richard, though they remain majority owners.


The Biernats have taken an active role in the production. Two of Sue Teagues uncles also have become involved in the business.


Im so happy that theres family members who want to get involved, she says. The bakery employs eight people, counting all of the family members, Teague says, and it plans to add at least two more soon.


To build a doughnut


Donut Parade Wholesales small kitchen area contains several counters, an industrial sink, a huge mixer, and a kettle. The kettle is an industrial-sized fryer filled with vegetable oil that is heated to 350 degrees. It cooks from two dozen to three dozen doughnuts at a time.


One counter area is used for rolling out dough used to make raised doughnuts and another is used for decorating the doughnuts with frostings and sprinkles.


Around 1 p.m. each work day, production of cake doughnuts begins. They include glazed buttermilk old-fashioned, blueberry, and devils food versions. Later the rounds are slathered with orange, cherry, chocolate, or maple frostings. Near Halloween, the shop dresses some doughnuts with bat and pumpkin sprinkles. Applesauce doughnuts also are popular around Halloween, Teague says.


Making doughnuts is the moodiest of all the baking, Teague contends. The water used to make the dough, the dough itself, and the grease in which the doughnuts are cooked all have to be the perfect temperature.


To make cake doughnuts, the dough is mixed and then placed in a hopper, which is a funnel-shaped metal bowl. At the bottom of the hopper is a metal die that shapes the dough in the form of a doughnut as the baker pulls a lever to cut the dough. The soft rings plop into the frying kettle and cook for two to three minutes while being turned over continuously. The finished doughnuts are then placed on cooling racks.


In the late afternoon, the shop begins to make raised doughnutsbasically, doughnuts made with yeast, such as the standard glazed doughnut. From the same type of dough, the shop makes other products including cinnamon rolls, twists, cream-filled Bismarks, and maple bars. To make the raised products, a 30-pound blob of dough is divided into sections and shaped into oblong loaves, which then are rolled flat with a big aluminum rolling pin. The doughnuts then are cut out by hand using a round doughnut cutter that looks like a deep cookie cutter. For rectangular products, a special cutter is used. Cinnamon rolls are made from the leftover scraps.


The raised products are cooked in the kettle on submerged trays.


Some of them then are filled with fruit jelly, Bavarian cream, or chocolate. The decorator sticks the doughnuts on the end of a metal tube that protrudes from a jelly pump, a computer is set that tells the machine how much filling to pump out, and presto!


Once the doughnuts have been frosted, the decorator may opt to dress them up with toppings such as toasted coconut or crushed Oreo cookies.


By midnight the doughnuts are packaged and ready for delivery.


Teague says the bakery doesnt spend much money on advertising, and its sales have grown largely by referrals.


Looking back at the early days when Teague and her husband worked odd and long hours to get their business off the ground, Teague says, Ive put the pressure and the fear away. Its been so much fun to see this grow up.

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