Normally, a new doughnut shop isn't exciting to anyone except for shareholders of the "diabeetus" testing supply company that Wilford Brimley shills for. But two married couples in Denton are upending the doughnut shop formula: Starting in late July or early August, Denton Square Donuts will be staying open late, serving alcohol and hosting live music shows.
Denton Square Donuts is the creation of Monica and Bear Cahill and Kristen and Jeremy Villeneuve. I met the foursome at Jupiter House last Thursday night to talk about their concept and how they've prepared to go into the food business.
Their professional culinary background is minimal -- as Kristen Villeneuve puts it, "I worked at Orange Julius for about a week." So where did the doughnuts and booze idea come from?
According to Bear Cahill, "We got the idea a couple of months ago. We were watching TV and they were doing a special on different novelty foods, and we were like, that would be perfect for Denton." They first considered a food truck, but that presented challenges: "Could we really fry the donuts in the truck? Could we fry them fast enough? So we thought about getting a shop, and then the next thing you knew we were signing a lease."
Their lease is for a large, historic building just off the square that they're renovating themselves, with plenty of help from friends. Most recently a coffee shop called The Hydrant, the space has room downstairs for plenty of seating and a large service counter. Upstairs, along with the kitchen, is a huge, high-ceilinged room full of light with a stage at the end -- perfect for the local bands the foursome plans to book.
All four come up with ideas for the doughnuts, but Monica Cahill has taken charge of perfecting the recipes. Along the way, she's finding ways to distinguish her wares from any doughnut shop I've ever been to. The donuts are baked instead of fried, and square instead of round. She walks me through a box of samples they've brought with them. There's a doughnut with vanilla glaze, lemon frosting and crushed lemon candy, another one with vanilla glaze, vanilla frosting and Reese's peanut butter cups, and some powdered sugar doughnut holes (also square). My attention, however, is riveted on the last one: a doughnut with a maple glaze, giant pieces of bacon, and drizzled with maple syrup. I have to fight down an urge to grab it and run out of the interview.
Although they will have more traditional flavor choices -- "We are going to have a chocolate one. I think I just decided today. I think we need a chocolate one for the picky kids," Monica says -- the emphasis is clearly on creativity. Their starting lineup will include everything from a pretzel-caramel donut, to a s'mores doughnut with graham, chocolate and marshmallows, to Jeremy Villeneuve's favorite, a Tang doughnut.
There will also be more savory options. In addition to the bacon maple doughnut, they have developed a cream cheese and jalapeno doughnut, another with brie and apricots, and a pizza doughnut, which (thankfully) doesn't have a sweet component: "Pizza sauce, cheese, and we've done them with and without pepperoni. We're not sure if we're going to do both, or just stick with one that has more general appeal," Bear explains.
He continues, "We have some jelly-filled ones," but I'm anxious to get to the booze part of the story, so I interrupt to ask if there will be any Jell-O shot doughnuts. "I don't know if we're going to have a license for hard liquor. We can call it that."
Kristen wisely points out, "Though people would be disappointed when they bit into it."
So, no hard liquor (this won't be the Sid Vicious of the doughnut world), but there will be wine. "At night, it could be something you do after dinner as a dessert, or as your dinner with wine, or dessert for the kids and wine for the parents," Bear says.
In fact, they vacillated on the whole wine idea at first. "It was an early idea, but then we put it on the back burner a little bit," Bear says. "We weren't sure what kind of message it would send, what tone that would set, but the more we mentioned the idea to people, the more it was like, 'That puts it over the top.'"
"If we want to attract bands, and if we want it to be somewhere that people could have baby showers, and wedding showers, receptions, parties, then we need the alcohol," Kristen adds.
Bands and baby showers don't often share the same venues, so I ask who they're trying to target.
"I think the same demographic as Jupiter House. Really, everybody: You get college students in here, and you get the mayor [Mark Burroughs] here every morning, and you get the old timers outside," Bear says.
Jeremy is aware that their shop might not fit squarely (no pun intended) in the mainstream, but he believes they're in the right spot. "I don't think this is an idea that would work anywhere else. I don't see this working in Frisco. It's just so unique of an offering. It's a Denton, Austin kind of thing. It's got to be in a community that embraces new things and local businesses."
They also have an interesting technology angle: Bear and Jeremy are independent software developers, focusing on iPhone app and web server development. In fact, they already have an app for their store under review with Apple. Bear explains how it will work: "Customers can get into their car, open the app and say 'repeat my last order, I'm 10 minutes away,' and then it sends us the order and the description of their car they had previously saved, so when they drive up, we can walk out with their order, and swipe their card. Or use the app to push notifications like, 'Half off from 1 to 3 today!' "
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The technology sounds cool, but at the end of the day, it's all about the doughnuts. Finally, finally, Monica offers me one. (I was beginning to think they just brought them to torment me.) I grabbed the bacon one almost before the words were out of her mouth.
Sweet lord of lard, it was amazing. The pastry is very light and flaky. It's more like a croissant or a mille-feuille than a typical yeast doughnut. It's light and not greasy, though it's buttery. The glaze is real maple syrup. The bacon is sturdy, salty and extra-crunchy. It's been drizzled with more maple syrup. It's like eating a bacon-and-waffle sandwich, and it's gone too soon.
Denton Square Donuts 208 West Oak St. Denton 940-220-9447