Saturday, May 18, 2013
By Gillian Graham firstname.lastname@example.org
SOUTH PORTLAND - Plain. Glazed. Blueberry. Mojito.
Emily Bachelder, a baker at Tony’s Donuts in Portland, gathers flour while making blueberry cake donuts. A new Tony’s Donuts will open soon in South Portland. “During the hard economic times, the bakery business is always good,” says Rick Fournier, Tony’s owner.
Photos by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer
Herb Ledue, left, and Arthur Lekousi read newspapers at Tony’s Donuts in Portland. They visit Tony’s three or four times a week for a plain doughnut or a cruller and coffee. Americans eat an average of nine doughnuts a year – a figure Tony’s customers scoff at.
When it comes to doughnuts, Mainers can't seem to get enough.
Now there's word that Frosty's Donuts, a mainstay on Brunswick's Maine Street since 1956, will open a South Portland store this month. Soon after, Tony's Donuts of Portland will open a shop about a mile farther down Broadway. They join a handful of other local bakeries known for their doughnuts, such as The Cookie Jar in Cape Elizabeth and The Holy Donut in Portland.
But can the Portland area really support so many doughnut shops? The owners think so.
"There's never a wrong time to have a doughnut," said Keyla Carr, who is opening the new Frosty's with her husband, Haj Carr, and owners Nels Omdal and Shelby St. Andre. "The price is right."
Rick Fournier, owner of Tony's Donuts, agrees.
"During the hard economic times, the bakery business is always good," he said. "We're a comfort food and people want to get something to treat themselves."
The number of doughnut shops is on the rise nationwide, increasing by 2 percent last year to nearly 14,000 stores, according to a spring restaurant census from the NPD Group, a New York market research firm. The number of doughnut shops in Maine stayed flat at 175, but that will change as Frosty's and Tony's open the new stores.
Maine's love affair with doughnuts is long-standing, which may be understandable considering the ring-shaped doughnut was invented in 1847 by a man from Camden. Capt. Hanson Gregory was tired of uncooked dough in the middle of his "fried cakes" and "twisters." His solution came in the form of the cover of the ship's tin pepper box, which he used to "cut into the middle of that doughnut the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes," he recounted to The Washington Post in 1916.
When asked if he was pleased with the outcome, Gregory responded: "Was Columbus pleased? Well, sir, them doughnuts was the finest I ever tasted. No more indigestion -- no more greasy sinkers -- but well-done, fried-through doughnuts."
"Maybe that explains why New Englanders are naturally drawn to doughnuts," said Leigh Kellis, owner of The Holy Donut on Park Avenue in Portland.
People in the Northeast, it turns out, eat more doughnuts than in all other parts of the country except the South. In the past year, Americans bought 1.6 billion doughnuts, up 1 percent from the previous year, according to the NPD Group. In the fiscal year that ended in June, people in the Northeast ordered 422 million doughnuts, second only to the 568 million ordered in the South census region.
Out on the West Coast, doughnuts appear to be far less popular: only 287 million were sold last year.
Americans eat an average of nine doughnuts a year, but people in the Northeast order 49 percent more doughnuts than elsewhere in the country, according to the NPD Group.
Clarence Rhodes of Portland, a regular at Tony's Donuts, is skeptical of the nine-a-year average.
"I could eat nine doughnuts in a day myself," he said Wednesday morning as he had coffee at Tony's Donuts.
His friend, Dave Fenderson, admits to eating doughnuts -- especially molasses-flavored -- a couple times a week.
"A couple a week, Davey?" Dan Villacci, another Tony's regular, joked. "He lies."
Villacci eats three doughnuts a day, sometimes more, and says there are many other Mainers who do the same. From his regular seat at Tony's, he watches as customers grab doughnuts and coffee on their way to work, stop by for a snack and a chat with friends, or pick up a dozen doughnuts for the family after Sunday morning church services. Tony's sells about 200 dozen doughnuts a day.
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click image to enlarge
Blueberry cake doughnuts cook in a fryolater at Tony’s Donuts. A Camden ship’s captain invented the ring shape in 1847, the story goes, to put an end to soggy, uncooked centers.