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Sugar rush puts doughnut startup on hiatus

Michael Schwartz June 19, 2013 5
Sugar Shack employees faced long lines Tuesday morning. (Photos by Michael Schwartz)

Sugar Shack opened June 11 to demand that hasn’t let up. (Photos by Michael Schwartz)

Overwhelmed in its opening week, a startup doughnut shop has some holes to fill.

Sugar Shack, which opened June 11 to a line of eager customers, was forced to close its Carver shop for at least three days this week after getting pummeled by more doughnut-hungry Richmonders than it could handle.

Sugar Shack closed temporarily to "restock, reorganize and most importantly recover." (Photo by Michael Schwartz)

Sugar Shack closed temporarily to “restock, reorganize and most importantly recover.” (Photo by Michael Schwartz)

The shop, at 1001 N. Lombardy St., was closed Monday and Tuesday with a sign in the door announcing: “We need to restock, reorganize and most importantly recover from this past week.” A Facebook post said the shop would reopen Thursday.

Owner Ian Kelley said he and partner Casey Ward have had to almost double their staff, rework the flow of the kitchen and order more ingredients.

“We thought we’d open and be busy,” Kelley said of their inaugural week. “We didn’t expect even half of the business we ended up getting. We just came to the decision that we need to reset and take a few days to get it right.”

Kelley said they had expected to sell 5,000 or 6,000 doughnuts during their first week.

About 1,700 went out the door the first day, a Tuesday, increasing each day to 2,600 sold on Friday. The shop sold between 10,000 and 12,000 doughnuts by week’s end, Kelley said.

“It was 5:30 a.m. the first day, and there was a line out the door. And then it just never stopped,” Kelley said. “I couldn’t be happier, but we just didn’t have the staff to keep up with it.”

They scrambled to bring on new employees to handle the lines but weren’t able to keep up with the kitchen flow and train workers on the fly. The business opened with nine employees, including Kelley, Ward and their general manager. By the time they reopen, the staff will number 15 or 16, Kelley said.

And the issues went beyond manpower.

“We ran out of all of our flours and mixes. Even if we wanted to open Monday, we didn’t have the product to open,” Kelley said.

In particular, they hadn’t foreseen the popularity of gluten-free doughnuts, which Kelley said sold out within the first hour of business. The shop hopes eventually to expand its gluten-free offerings to include bread, bagels and pastries.

Kelley said the Sugar Shack team wasn’t happy about having to close, but that preventing long lines, short supply and unhappy customers would ensure Sugar Shack’s future.

“We’re trying to do it right and be a long-term business,” he said.

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5 Comments »

  1. Max Walraven June 19, 2013 at 7:36 am - Reply

    Great job guys!
    I have a warehouse nearby and love seeing that area get better and better.

    Thank you,
    Max Walraven
    CityStone
    Richmond Yacht Basin
    2SGDevelopment

  2. Jamesgrayland June 19, 2013 at 8:57 am - Reply

    Not a bad problem to have. Way to go!

  3. Brooks June 19, 2013 at 10:22 am - Reply

    Awesome!

  4. Mark Guncheon June 19, 2013 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    With Maggie Walker kids across the street, you’ll have even more business ocne they are back in school.

    Be prepared for the “Green Dragons!”

  5. Corey Divine June 19, 2013 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    Good job Sugar Shack team!! Excited to have you in the neighborhood!!

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