For all the hype surrounding the rising popularity of gourmet donuts, Bob Kenny admits that he prefers to sell simple, great-tasting donuts at reasonable prices. At his shop, DoughBoys Donuts in Reno, Nevada, they offer cake donuts for 95 cents apiece, glazed for $1, and only one selection (the baked cinnamon roll for $2.75) goes for more than $2. The fanciest donut on the menu is probably the chocolate chip roll for $1.95.
And his formula keeps on working and working.
“After eight years here, people keep coming back, and every year we get busier,” says Kenny, who runs the two-store, family-owned business with his wife, Marge, and son, Jay. “We have our niche, and our niche is a good donut selling at a fair price. Things are pretty good here. We can’t keep up with demand.”
Still, the retired Los Angeles police officer who first started selling donuts in 1980 in Southern California believes that the gourmet donut trend is equally positive for the business overall. The latest trends involve donut shops stacking anything from kids’ cereal to unique frosting flavors like hibiscus on top of a donut and selling the decadent sweet goods for $2 to $3 apiece (or even higher, depending on the location).
“I’m actually very happy to see that trend. It’s getting the word about donuts out there,” he says. “It’s a completely different setup than what we have going, and there’s a niche for that, too. I see nothing but growth ahead for donuts.”
With National Donut Day approaching on Friday, June 2, the donut business is surging forward in all sorts of new and interesting directions.
In Reno, a blue-collar version of Las Vegas, outdoor recreation is the name of the game, and skiing and kayaking are as popular here as the locals’ love of great donuts. And DoughBoys Donuts is the star attraction.
“The only thing that slows us down is when people can’t get in here because of the weather,” the good-natured Kenny says during a recent winter day when the Reno-Tahoe area received several feet of snow.
But one change he has noticed over the years is the time during which people come most often to their store. Their shop still does brisk sales in the morning hours, but “we do tremendous late afternoon business, and our late-night business is phenomenal.”
DoughBoys Donuts is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and they do no less than four to six baking cycles per day. “We’re baking fresh all day, and that’s a constant,” Kenny says. “Part of our success is the location where we’re at in a busy shopping center. A lot of people come in for a cup of hot chocolate and a donut.
In addition to everyday and seasonal varieties of donuts made with premium jams, fillings and icings, the store offers a full selection of freshly baked croissants, bagels, breakfast sandwiches and gourmet roasted coffees, teas and hot chocolate.
“Reno is a great community, and for so many people, this is their outlet for where they start their day,” he points out. “Donuts are happy food.”
Kenny got his start in Southern California where he made the successful transition from a police officer (who admits that he always loved donuts) to a donut maker nearly 40 years ago. Donut Stop became a local favorite and quickly grew to multiple locations in Southern California. In 2009, the family journey continued when Bob’s son, Jay, moved the family’s recipes with him to Reno, where DoughBoys Donuts was born. In addition, the Kenny family continues to operate Rolling Pin Donuts in Camarillo, California.
In Camarillo, they sell donuts all night long and close at 2 a.m., and reopen at 6 a.m. The Southern California donut business is becoming more of a late-night thing.
In Reno, DoughBoys Donuts does a lot of business with the University of Nevada, including the ever-popular Wolf Pack Paw (a raised donut shaped like a wolf paw with blue vanilla icing).
“Throughout the year, we bring in seasonal donuts like lemon, pumpkin spice and red velvet, and periodically we do cherry clusters and peanut butter logs. With donuts, there is an endless variety that you can do.”
Beyond looking for more storage and baking space to keep pace with surging demand, particulary from wholesale accounts, Kenny sees the key to future continued success will be sticking to the plan.
“I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years, so I’ve seen the ups and downs,” he says. “I’m a people person, and you just have to keep your place clean and give ‘em good service. We can only control what we’re doing.”