Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/5/2015 (2317 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Remember that old saying -- the one about how if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door? As it turns out, that goes double for doughnuts.
Brothers Brett and Dylan Zahari are the owners of Bronuts, Winnipeg's first gourmet doughnut shop, at 100 King St. Bronuts officially opened on April 22 at 7 a.m. sharp. Ninety minutes later, the guys posted a photo on their Instagram page of a branded "sold out" sign, along with the message, "Winnipeg, you did it. You ate all of our donuts!"
That scenario repeated itself the next day, and the day after that.
On April 25 -- Bronuts' initial go-round with a Saturday crowd -- the queue outside the Exchange District coffee parlour (yes, they serve coffee, too) stretched 50 metres long, almost to Bannatyne Avenue. Uh, did we mention that was an hour before the 17-seat locale was even scheduled to open?
"It was easier getting Jets playoff tickets than a @bronutswpg donut!" tweeted a person later that morning, as he headed home empty-handed.
So yeah, the brothers concede, it's been a crazy few weeks trying to figure out that whole supply/demand equation; only made crazier by the fact on May 1, Brett's wife, Meghan, who is also part of the ownership team, gave birth to daughter Emelyn, the couple's first child. (No, Brett says with a laugh, the business administration course he took at Red River College didn't cover starting a company and family within 10 days of one another.)
"Everyone keeps asking us, 'Why don't you just make more doughnuts?' and my answer is, 'I wish it was that easy,' " says Dylan, balling up his flour-specked apron. "I try to explain each batch takes five or six hours to prepare, and that our kitchen is already running at full capacity.
"We're definitely trying our best, but at the same time, it's been absolutely unbelievable the reception Winnipeggers have given us so far."
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Around this time last year, Brett and Meghan took a trip to Oregon. Brett knew gourmet doughnut shops were already "a thing." But until he visited Portland's Blue Star Donuts, home to exotic flavours such as blueberry bourbon basil, crème brªlée and maple bacon, he'd never bit into an honest-to-goodness, fresh-baked doughnut before.
"This might sound funny, but growing up, I didn't even like doughnuts that much," Brett says, pausing to accept congratulations from a customer in regards to his newly minted fatherhood. "My dad was a contractor and every Saturday he used to take me with him to his work site. On the way there, he'd always pick up a dozen (doughnuts) from Tims or Robin's and tell me, 'Here, have a doughnut.' So for a long time, doughnuts didn't have that great a connotation; I guess I associated them with being dragged out of bed on weekends."
Brett, 23, and Dylan, 21, had been tossing around the idea of starting their own business for some time. So as soon as Brett returned home from the States, he called his sibling and said, "Hey, what about doughnuts?" Last fall, the pair reached out to owners of doughnut shops and cafes in cities across North America in order to "absorb and learn the industry as much as we could," Brett says. The duo signed their lease in December 2014.
While their site was being developed, the brothers bought a small deep fryer and ran a test kitchen of sorts at their mother's house, to determine what flavours of yeast-raised doughnuts worked best. They settled on four varieties for starters -- cinnamon sugar, vanilla glaze, peanut butter chocolate and Nutella -- and proceeded to name each one after family members.
The Samuel is so-dubbed for Meghan's brother, Nicholas is the guys' brother and Madison is their sister, Brett explains, guiding a visitor through the menu.
"Betty is my grandma's name," adds Meghan. "She passed away when my mom was very, very young, and it was a neat way to honour her. Plus, Betty is a sweet name and suited such a sweet doughnut."
Paul Mullins is the author of Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut. Although specialty doughnuts weren't trending yet when Mullins' book came out in 2008, the Indiana University professor didn't blink when people began lining up to spend as much as $4 on a piece of fried dough. (Doughnuts at Bronuts are $2.75 a piece.)
"There is now some gourmet or artisanal version of even the most prosaic foods, including pickles, ketchup, jerky and similar foods that would seem utterly outside the purview of foodies," Mullins says when reached at his office in Indianapolis. "So we should not be surprised that doughnuts have followed suit."
Like Winnipeg, Indianapolis was a little slow to catch up to metropolises such as Chicago and New York, where cheekily named gourmet doughnut shops -- Glazed and Confused is our fave -- have been part of the culinary landscape since 2010 or so.
"It was a class phenomenon that I frankly did not think would reach much beyond Manhattan and L.A. but, for various reasons, the artisan doughnut has secured a foothold in lots of places," Mullins goes on. "My sense is that even a gourmet doughnut is not all that expensive, so it makes artisanal foods available to folks who are not likely to ever consume Kobe beef or free-range pickles.
"These shops are not in competition with Tims, Dunkin' or the local mom-and-pop bakery, really, because demand for one doughnut tends to fan desire for doughnuts in general, and not just in a single bakery."
Bronuts is open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Brett and Dylan figure those hours will be modified somewhat, come festival season.
"You talk to all the neighbouring business owners around here and they're like, 'You guys won't believe what's coming,' " Dylan says in regards to attractions such as the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival and the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, both of which draw thousands of spectators to Old Market Square, situated just steps away from Bronuts. "We've only been open (three) weeks but we're definitely working on how we're going to be able to turn around the kitchen and prepare more batches, to be ready for the onslaught."
Oh, in case you forgot, or need to buy somebody a card, National Doughnut Day falls on June 5 this year. The guys at Bronuts have something up their sleeve for that day -- most likely a new flavour, they promise -- but they aren't revealing what it will be, or who it will be named after just yet.
Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.