A business grows in Brooklyn, one that partly sprouted from Winslow High School.
Dan Dunbar, class of 2002, is co-owner of Dun-Well Doughnuts in New York City. The shop – which combines a love of cooking, art and theatrics – was recently crowned by the New York Daily News as having the best doughnuts in the city.
But there’s a twist: New York City’s best doughnuts are also vegan.
“We serve the only vegan doughnut in New York City,” said Dunbar, 28. “Our doughnuts have no cholesterol. We use all-natural ingredients that are organic and local whenever possible.
“We don’t peddle our doughnuts as health food, but we are proud that we serve the healthiest doughnuts.”
From their headquarters in the fashion-forward neighborhood of East Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Dun-Well Doughnuts sells about 100 different varieties, including root beer, tangerine with basil, a jelly doughnut with peanut butter icing called the PB&J.
Doughnuts, however, were never part of the plan while Dunbar was growing up in Winslow. But his profession is a culmination of his youthful interests.
As a teenager, Dunbar wanted to be a restaurateur or an actor. During his first year at Ithaca College in New York, he switched to a vegan diet, which excludes all animal products, after learning more about the living conditions of animals on large-scale industrial farms. After Ithaca, Dunbar enrolled in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to pursue a bachelor’s of fine art in sculpture.
Those passions – cooking, theater, sculpture and a vegan lifestyle – are all found within the walls of Dun-Well Doughnuts, Dunbar said.
Theater is evident in the store’s decor and its owners’ personas, he said. Dunbar and business partner Christopher Hallowell, whom he met at Ithaca College, play the roles of “old-timey gentlemen.” The shop’s atmosphere evokes the post-World War I era, when the doughnut became a symbol of pride in the country after being served to U.S. troops in France as a morale-booster.
Dunbar is the shop’s head baker, requiring an overnight shift that sometimes runs from 10:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. The doughnuts themselves are like works of art, albeit at a faster pace of creation, he said.
“A lot of thought goes into how the finished doughnut will look,” Dunbar said.
Artfulness might be readily apparent in each doughnut, but there’s one aspect of the product that the shop owners hope is undetectable. They hope no one would ever guess their doughnuts are vegan.
“We don’t plaster the words ‘vegan or’ ‘vegetarian’ in our shop,” Dunbar said. “We promote it more on our website, but that’s because people are doing Web-based searches for ‘vegan’ and ‘doughnut’ and we want to let those people know about us. But in the shop, we don’t want to start people off with a bias. We want the doughnuts to speak for themselves.”
He said it’s not difficult to make a doughnut that tastes good without eggs or dairy products.
“Eggs serve a function in baked goods that can be replicated with non-animal ingredients,” he said. “I don’t think people bite into a doughnut and say, ‘Oh, this is so eggy.’ “
The New York Daily News seemed to agree. In February, just three months after Dun-Well opened its doors, the newspaper included its doughnuts in the paper’s “Best of New York” feature.
The recognition has boosted sales, too. The shop sells about 50 dozen doughnuts a day, plus more at eight other locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The doughnuts range from $1.50 to $2.50 apiece, or $25 per dozen.
“It was just a matter of finding what worked best,” Dunbar said. “In the long run, we found things that actually work better.”
Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Ben McCanna can be contacted at 861-9239 or at: