December 12, 2013

A Word with the Boss: Long hours, trusty recipe work to grow Frosty’s Donuts

Shelby and Nels Omdal are expanding their Brunswick-based business.

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

Shelby and Nels Omdal, both 35, bought Frosty’s Donuts in Brunswick two years ago, taking over from the couple who opened the store in 1965. The business has expanded, with two more shops in Freeport and Bath and a new contract to provide doughnuts to Hannaford supermarkets.

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Nels and Shelby Omdal bought Frosty’s Donuts in Brunswick, shown here, two years ago. They have added shops in Bath and Freeport and have a contract to provide doughnuts to Hannaford supermarkets.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Shelby Omdal said they produce about 400 dozen doughnuts on an average day, and a new loan from the Brunswick Development Corp. will allow the company to add employees and equipment to expand production. The company now has 23 employees and an expanding wholesale operation. Omdal said it was “marginally profitable” last year, but is on track for greater profitability in the future.

Q: How did you get into the doughnut business?

A: We live in Brunswick, and we used to frequent Frosty’s when the previous owners (Bob and June Frost) had it. It went up for sale and was closed for a while, and we wanted to see it reopen and wanted to work for ourselves – and learn how to make doughnuts. I was a social worker and Nels worked at a bank. I think we just saw the potential of what we could do with it. We met with Bob Frost and there was an instant connection, and we thought we could make it work. Everything fell in line, even the financing, which was tough to get two years ago. I was going to keep my job – that was the plan – but about two weeks into it we realized that wasn’t going to work. We had to put up our house to get the loan, so there was a huge amount of risk, but it didn’t matter if we worked night and day. It had to be successful. 

Q: Did either of you have any experience making doughnuts?

A: Nels was always an amazing cook and could make something out of nothing. We knew he would be able to pick it up. I’ve always been in some sort of business aspect of things, management and that type of stuff.

When we started off, there were the two of us and two employees, and everyone was doing it all. Nels would come in and make the doughnuts. I’d come in at 4 (a.m.) when we could get a babysitter, and open the store and sell doughnuts all day, and then close and clean the store and Nels would go and get a few hours of sleep. 

Q: Was it tough learning to make the doughnuts?

A: It’s a long process. The way we make doughnuts takes time. It’s not automated on an assembly line. It’s all hand cut and a batch of dough takes three hours, at least. On our busy nights, we’re doing five large batches, which is a lot of doughnuts – about 500 dozen. 

Q: How is the business split between retail and wholesale?

A: We have a lot of wholesale accounts, but the major account right now is Hannaford. They’re no longer making their own doughnuts; we’re making them. We had to buy new delivery trucks, hire new drivers, and hire new bakers. The expansion we’re doing is on the wholesale end. We’re not opening a new store, but we definitely have our sights set on a couple of locations in the Gardiner-Augusta area and in the northern midcoast. 

Q: Is it what you expected? 

A: We had no idea what we were getting into when we bought it. The first day we opened, we had a line around the block and sold out in 45 minutes. We both stood there in shock. We had no idea that people would love it so much. The thing we did well is we kept everything the same. Bob himself taught us how to make the doughnuts, and we didn’t waver from that or try to do things cheaper, while we still keep the prices low. 

(Continued on page 2)

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