As they retell it, the conversation between Josh Danoff and his friend Heather Schmidt went something like this.
Danoff: “One word. Doughnuts.”
Schmidt: “I’m In!”
The result, Union Square
Donuts in Somerville, is perpetually packed, open Thursday to Sunday until they run out of rounds.
You may have seen the energetic Danoff, 37, slinging kombucha tea and Ocean Ave popsicles at farmers’ markets around town. His business partner in their company, Culinary Cruisers, is his sister, Leah, 29, sweetly reserved. Their third partner/sibling is brother Noah, 35, who has been dubbed the ideas man.
It was Noah who saw the success of doughnuts at a Brooklyn farmers’ market last fall. After throwing the idea around the family, Josh picked up the phone to call Schmidt, whom they consider an “honorary Danoff.” The early crowds took Schmidt and the Danoff siblings by surprise. Hipster foodies, young families, and Somerville old-timers make up the customer base. When he saw the lines, Josh thought to himself, “This is what the most popular kids in high school must feel like.”
After the initial conversation, Schmidt, 38, a Clear Flour Bread alum, found herself testing endless variations of raised doughnuts, ripping them apart to study the crumb, while Josh happily munched away, giving her plenty of encouragement. The doughnuts are golden crisp on the outside, with fluffy centers, and have just the right chewy resistance when you rip off a bite. They come in flavors like maple bacon (very popular), chocolate chipotle, and hibiscus cherry. Schmidt’s method is as old-fashioned as it gets. She uses Cabot butter and whole milk, and squeezes fresh orange juice to make zippy pastry cream to fill the orange-ginger flavor. She and her staff roll and shape each doughnut by hand, which seems fitting for a woman who runs HomeMade Modern, a company that offers an ever-changing curriculum of DIY home projects.
Doughnuts are sold out of the shared use space, Kitchen Inc., on Somerville Avenue, which houses many burgeoning food businesses including the catering company Cuisine en Locale and the traveling mixologists of Booze Epoque. Though the new doughnut venture sells out of treats around 3 p.m. on weekdays and weekends, Schmidt ordered equipment so she can produce more.
The next time a friend calls you up with a crazy, fun-sounding business idea, maybe you should dive right in. For the entrepreneurial crew at Union Square Donuts, it’s turned out to be a pretty sweet deal.
Union Square Donuts
Catherine Smart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.