If there were ever a perfect time to start a business, Anne Rucker found it. In May 2014, Rucker opened the doors to her shop, Bogart’s Doughnut Co., and Minneapolis welcomed her with open arms (or perhaps, they were just reaching for a doughnut). For many, summertime is doughnut time. And with open, inviting shops like Bogart’s, why wouldn’t it be?
The shop, located on W. 36th Street and Bryant Avenue South, is a modest, underwhelming building, and easy to miss if it weren’t for the bright red lettering. Late at night, the shop quietly buzzes inside as bakers prepare the next day’s dough. Once morning hits, the crowds come out for doughnuts as early as 6:30 a.m.
Inside the shop, a simple marquee reads prices—“doughnuts with holes” are $2, “doughnuts without holes” are $3. A long case displays the morning’s goodies. A bar by the window holds a small tray for the coffee drinker’s cream and sugar. Outside, a bench is almost always occupied by neighbors getting their doughnut fix.
Best of all, the heavenly, sweet aroma of doughnuts fills the inside of the shop and will follow customers as they drive away or walk down the street with a box of treats in hand.
The shop prides itself on the subtle salty-sweet combo of the Brown Butter-Glazed along with the light and airy Vanilla Bean Buttercream-Filled doughnut—two of its most popular. Among the other flavors are a sweet lavender cake doughnut and a weekend-only Lemon Curd doughnut.
Rucker opened up Bogart’s in the sweet spot of doughnut popularity, right as summer was about to take flight and doughnut lovers are waiting in anticipation for National Donut Day on the first Friday in June.
This summer, Bogart’s will celebrate its one-year anniversary on May 30, people will flock to doughnut shops around the city for National Donut Day on June 5, and the Twin Cities Donut Crawl will hold a festival in St. Paul on June 13. Talk about a sugar high.
Whether a doughnut is gripped in the hands of a pop culture icon like Homer Simpson or any cop in any movie, or earning its badge in food evolution as the “cronut,” doughnuts have always been a classic. In recent years, some foodies have even dubbed the guilty-pleasure breakfast food as “the new cupcake” because of its rapid popularity and increasing trendiness.
Google’s search trends tend to show a spike in searches involving “donuts” over the summer months, and in recent years, that spike has grown. Last year, Rucker took advantage of the doughnut popularity and decided to open its doors to Bogart’s first brick-and-mortar location.
Previously, Rucker exclusively sold her baked goods at the Kingfield Farmers Market in south Minneapolis at her stand, Bogart Loves.
The Kingfield Farmers Market is a part of the local Neighborhood Roots non-profit, a company that dedicates itself to cultivating a rich and inviting neighborhood community. Begun in 2001, the Kingfield market has evolved from a simple neighborhood market to a major community gathering space. On any given Sunday, people mill about a collection of white tents, where the vendors and market-goers talk as if they’ve known each other for years.
“People can congregate,” Executive Director Alex Cortes said, describing the market’s morning atmosphere, when chairs are out and live music is played.
“The markets are neighborhood generated and neighborhood based,” she said.
Like Rucker, many vendors are at the Farmers Market to test the entrepreneurial waters. Other well-known Minneapolis shops, like Sunstreet Breads, Chef Shack and Big River Pizza, also have currently or had in the past, a stand at the market.
Though the market’s goal is to “bring neighbors together to buy local food,” Cortes said that there are also items other than fresh fruit and veggies for sale, such as coffee, pastries, and arts and crafts. Yet the market does require at least 60 percent of its vendors to be agricultural vendors.
When another bakery held a pastry spot at the market, Rucker worked hard to earn her own after a friend suggested she apply to be a vendor.
“So I found out who the director of the board was, and I literally sent him like 15 emails,” Rucker said.
Perhaps Rucker’s savvy persistence can be attributed to her previous career as an attorney.
Yet she said law was never her passion, and baking provided her something of a way out to follow her dream, which at the time only manifested itself in food blogging. She said that she thought having a farmers market stand would be the perfect way to test out whether or not she wanted to do it full time.
So Rucker made a deal with herself. “I said ‘if I get through three years at the farmers market, then I’ll start looking for a space.’ And that’s what I did,” She said.
When a space in her own neighborhood opened up, Rucker researched the space and convinced the owner to lease it to her. The iconic red letters went up, and Bogart’s was born.
Both the shop’s humble environment and its limited flavor choices—each day ranges about seven different kinds—add to its classic feel.
“I think what I was going for, was to keep the classic doughnut shop feel from when I was a kid,” Rucker said. “And try to make the doughnuts a little bit better.”
Contributing to that “little bit better” is the brioche dough, which is traditionally reserved for breads, not doughnuts.
“It’s a dough that has a lot of extra butter and eggs and yeast in it. It has to sit in the refrigerator overnight, so you can’t just make it every day,” Rucker said. “I wanted the dough to actually taste like something, versus having all the sugary toppings be all the taste.”
When it’s all about the dough, it’s only natural for the shop to prefer the classic “doughnut” spelling. Yet the other half—Bogart’s—is family name for Rucker.
“Our dough is what makes our doughnuts so good, and we had to honor that.” She said. “Pay homage to that, to brioche.”
While Bogart’s may be all about paying homage to brioche, the Twin Cities Donut Crawl is all about paying homage to doughnut culture.
The Crawl was founded by four friends who had made it a tradition to put on an informal doughnut crawl, until they opened one up to the public in the fall of 2014. When they set up an event online, they hoped for 100 people to buy tickets. Needless to say, they were ecstatic when they had sold over 500 tickets and had a waiting list for another 500 online.
“People love crawls,” co-founder Randy Kowlessar said. “We just tapped into this super-culture of doughnut lovers in Minneapolis… it was kind of like we struck oil.”
The fall crawl involved three local shops: Bogart’s Doughnut Co., Mel-O-Glaze Bakery, and A Baker’s Wife.
Alongside two of the cities more well-established and oldest bakeries, Kowlessar said Bogart’s was chosen for its status as “the new kid on the block.”
On April 11, the Twin Cities Donut Crawl returned to Bogart’s to announce the plans for a 2015 summer doughnut festival in St. Paul. Free doughnuts were handed out to last year’s participants if they wore their official TC Donut Crawl t-shirt.
This year on June 13, just one week after National Donut Day and less than one month after Bogart’s one-year anniversary, Bogart’s will join seven other bakeries in Mears Park for an entire day of doughnuts.
“There’s this undercurrent of culture when people just freak out about doughnuts,” Kowlessar said of the Crawl’s popularity. For Kowlessar, the doughnut obsession traces back to memories of visiting doughnut shops as a kid in New York City.
At Bogart’s, neighbors gather, doughnut-lovers explore, and the doughnut culture continues on.
Whether it’s a taste of the number one seller (and Rucker’s favorite), Brown Butter-Glazed, or an experience with a specialty wild blueberry hand pie made only on Thursdays, Bogart’s works to cater to the doughnut culture and honor the classics inspired by the best of childhood memories.
“That’s what we try to do. Just make it really delicious and good, but keep it simple.”
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