San Angelo's Donut Romance
Donut shops are popping up in San Angelo like pimples on a pubescent teen. In the past few years, at least six new locations have opened their doors across Angelo, but not many fronts have closed. What’s the skinny on this fatty love affair, and is it even profitable?
“I think the reason why donuts are in big demand, is that a lot of it is people are craving more sugar—donuts and coffee,” said Sokha Loth, owner of Express Donuts and Kolaches.
Express, like many of San Angelo’s donut-eers, has been in business for about three years. But there’s also another common denominator that Express shares with many of San Angelo’s most recent donut additions.
“I know the majority of them (donut shop owners) are family,” said Brenda Andrade, owner of Heavenly Donuts. “One time, one of them had said that was what they learned how to do as sort of a backup trade.”
But ‘backup’ might not necessarily be the word to describe it. For many local pastry makers, the craft of donut making is entrenched in a family tradition that has been passed down through generations and kept alive by business.
“Our family has been doing this for a long time,’ said Campus Donuts owner Nee Vaun “Growing up, all I knew was donuts. I went to school, but not for this.”
The owners of Campus Donuts take pride in their work and make everything fresh daily, starting at midnight to be ready by 4:00 a.m., when the Knickerbocker location opens. As far as success is concerned, a large part of it is attributed to quality and detail.
“We tend to go a little bit beyond the standard,” Phan Prak, Vaun’s husband and fellow Campus owner. “I check every product. If it doesn’t meet my qualification, I throw it away. I tend to think of the long-term, like a customer. Would I want to buy that product? Would I enjoy eating it?”
That type of thinking has paid off for Prak; right now, he doesn’t really consider any other local shops competitors, he says. However this feeling is not shared by all shop owners, and many have seen a decline in business over the past couple of years.
“Because there’s so many bakeries, probably not all of them are making a whole lot of money. I can personally speak from here, business has gone down,” Andrade says of Heavenly Donuts. “It’s kind of scary. I’m just glad that we have been here 15 years and that we have paid off the building and paid off the equipment, because if we hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t be here.”
The loss of profit to competition and the impact of the increasing number of competitors is something that all shop owners are having to contend with. Aside from Campus Donuts, every owner interviewed admitted a dip in revenue, however many have remained optimistic and only few see it as a threat to their viability.
Donutopia owner Menea Saray Vaun says she’s pretty sure that competitors are affecting her business, but states that her variety sets her apart.
“The only difference that our donut shop has is that we sell lunch,” Vaun says. “All of them only sell donuts and kolaches. That’s why I’m also open-minded, because I sell food—my donut burger is a different concept.”
Donut burgers, bacon donuts, red velvet cakes, and even customizable concoctions—the assortment at Donutopia is a non-traditionalist’s paradise. And as the kolache craze begins to gain momentum in San Angelo, some storekeepers may have to start getting innovative to keep their businesses alive.
What's your favorite donut, San Angelo?
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