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At doughnut shop, loyalty is in style

Burl Rolett August 3, 2012 23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Henrico is a ghost town in the wee hours of the morning. But at Country Style Donuts on Williamsburg Road, a neon “Open” sign burns 24 hours a day, six days a week, coaxing the shop’s loyal patrons to stop in.

Keith Isaac and Hassan Chaaban put out the day’s first doughnuts at 1:30 a.m. Less than 30 minutes later, longtime East Ender Devon Cook walked through the door.

“The glazed just come out?” he asked as he walked to the counter.

Cook, a Norfolk State University student, has been coming to Country Style long enough to know the schedule. And the glazed doughnuts — Cook’s favorite and Country Style’s most popular — are always ready first.

Over the next four hours, Isaac and Chaaban will add batches of Boston Cream, Apple-N-Spice, Blueberry Jelly and the rest of Country Style’s 38 varieties to the shelf, just in time for the regular crowd to start rolling in at about 6 a.m.

It’s the beginning of another day at Eastern Henrico’s old-timey, homemade doughnut shop. Country Style, which opened in 1968, sells about 200 pounds of pastries each day to a legion of morning regulars, airport travelers and roaming late-nighters, said co-owner Wafaa Nassereddine.

Wafaa’s husband, Steve Nassereddine, emigrated from Lebanon when at 18. He settled in Richmond and worked at Dunkin’ Donuts. The Nassereddines later co-owned Golden Donuts on Main Street.

In 1984, after their lease ran out and Golden Donuts closed, the Nassereddines purchased Country Style. At the time, doughnuts cost 49 cents, and the Nassereddines’ son Merwan was 5 years old.

Merwan, now 33, said little has changed since his family took over.

They painted the trim a lighter blue, added some seating and designed the shop’s menu signs. But Country Style still uses the same homemade recipes and serves the same loyal patrons.

“You don’t see people making homemade doughnuts,” he said. “Anywhere you go, they’re tiny and air-filled.”

Longtime employee Mary Lee Burnette said the store’s morning crowd is a tightknit bunch.

“All these people have been coming in here for many years,” she said. “It’s like a small hometown. Everybody knows everybody.”

That loyalty has helped Country Style spread to the Fan, where its doughnuts can be found at Lamplighter Coffee. And a second Country Style location might be in the works. Merwan said his brother, Nader Nassereddine, has been considering going into a second store for about six months now. He mentioned the West End and Southside as possible locations.

Country Style sees its biggest rush in the morning, starting about 6 a.m., Merwan said. Business slows down a bit during in the late morning hours before lunch, but the early evening hours bring the crowds back.

At 10 p.m., Isaac and Chabaan come back in. They cook through the night at a mostly empty shop.

They’ll serve a few late night passers-by like Cook or Johnathan Fleming, a bartender who occasionally drives from his Jackson Ward home after work.

Every Tuesday morning, Burnette said, the same customer shows up at midnight. He’ll sit at the Country Style bar until Isaac or Chabaan carry the first batch of glazed doughnuts out, buy the first few Country Style doughnuts of the week and take off – until next Tuesday.

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23 Comments »

  1. Veronica August 3, 2012 at 7:30 am - Reply

    I LOVE you Country Style Doughnuts!

  2. Ian August 3, 2012 at 8:06 am - Reply

    Best. Doughnuts. Ever.

  3. Cameron Jackson August 3, 2012 at 8:20 am - Reply

    Don’t go too far west or south! Either of the new locations should be closer to me. :)

  4. Mary Lee Schultz August 3, 2012 at 8:28 am - Reply

    They are the best and personally would love to see them in a west end location.

  5. Bryan August 3, 2012 at 8:35 am - Reply

    Absolutely the best donuts in Virginia. Possibly the world.

  6. Patty August 3, 2012 at 8:38 am - Reply

    Wonderful donuts–come to the West End.

  7. William Traynham August 3, 2012 at 8:51 am - Reply

    The Best Apple Turnover in the State…Don’t change too much @ the new location.

  8. Jay August 3, 2012 at 9:26 am - Reply

    I agree. Best ever. Move closer to downtown!

    One interesting thing I noted on my last visit.

    Individual doughnuts cost 96 or 99 cents (can’t remember which it was).
    Half-dozen costs $5.99

    It costs more to buy them as a half-dozen than to buy the individually. Kinda odd.

    But still delicious.

  9. Jay August 3, 2012 at 9:27 am - Reply

    Also add:

    Is it a little selfish for me to not want them to move to the West End or South Side?

  10. W Byrd August 3, 2012 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Best doughnuts ever. I have so totally missed them since moving to Short Pump area. You would make a killing in Short Pump and then I won’t have to drive to East End anymore.

  11. Mararet Thompson August 3, 2012 at 9:50 am - Reply

    I’ve been wanting to try this spot for years…this great piece will finally make me get it off my bucket list – thanks, BizSense!

  12. jd August 3, 2012 at 9:59 am - Reply

    I wonder what the price of donuts would have to be to cover the high lease rates in the West End?

  13. T August 3, 2012 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Forest Hill

  14. Grace August 3, 2012 at 10:30 am - Reply

    I’ve heard multiple times that the folks working in Innsbrook aren’t too happy with their doughnut options. The only place close by is Daylight Doughnuts, but I’ve heard the quality is so-so. Your doughnuts taste much better, so there might be a good oportunity for you if you can locate close to Innsbrook in the West End.

  15. Andrew August 3, 2012 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    The article doesn’t say the shop is moving; just that the owners are considering a second location.
    Don’t even think about leaving the East End!

  16. Jon August 3, 2012 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    I don’t care what fancy new donut shops open in Richmond, Country Style still has the best donuts. By far.

  17. NADIM NAJJAR August 3, 2012 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    absolutely the best ever,and cleanest location,we love it.

  18. Wren August 6, 2012 at 8:45 am - Reply

    I have gotten into verbal disputes with people who try to say there are better donuts in Richmond! Y’all are the best and so worth the drive!!!!!

  19. Dawn D. August 6, 2012 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Not only are your doughnuts awesome–the best in miles and miles– you are just VERY NICE people. Carry on the tradition!

  20. Jay August 6, 2012 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    Not only verbal disputes but physical as well! It’s that good.

  21. jd August 7, 2012 at 8:43 am - Reply

    I give in — I’ve never been there and now am salavating for one of their donuts! Talk about good word of mouth advertising from loyal customers.
    Next up — a donut shop / fro-yo shop in a apartment conversion building downtown!

  22. godnmeee August 13, 2012 at 10:32 am - Reply

    SOUTHSIDE SOUTHSIDE SOUTHSIDE PLEASE!! I’m with the person who said Forest Hill. Downtown would be great too : )….mmmm, going after work.

  23. Eric Styles (Trois Clothing) January 14, 2014 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    A delight to the senses…I’ll have what im having

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