Keoni Nguyen and Susie Path have brought bakery back to University Avenue.
SUGARUSH Donuts opened a few months ago at 712 University Avenue B2 in St. Paul. The couple took over the former Rainbow Donut shop from Nguyen’s brother but they have their own concept for the space and made it something all of their own.
They have brought in food and a wider variety of beverage, along with free WiFi and a flat screen television to make it a favorite stop for the entire diverse neighborhood.
“We want this to be a place for people to hang out, a place where families can sit with their kids,” said Path.
Path said the couple comes in as early as 2:00 a.m. to begin their daily donut-making routine. It is an art that has to be learned, says Path, and event the weather and temperature impact the process. If its not done right, there is no time to start over and that particular donut won’t be available that day.
They mix the dough, cut into the apple fritters, cinnamon rolls, bear claws, pinwheels, twists, long johns and other varieties, and then let it sit for 45 minutes in a proof machine to raise it to pre-frying size. She said they don’t use a sheet machine to roll out the dough, and hand roll each donut by hand.
They work on mixing the glaze next, keeping it and a warm temperature so that they can dip the donut upside down and get a full, even layer of frosting.
The most popular items since opening have been the oversized varieties of apple fritters, cinnamon rolls (up to 6oz) and bear claws. They take a longer frying time, she said, and some places don’t make big items because if they don’t keep an eye on it they come out doughy and uncooked inside.
“We have heard a few good things about the donuts,” said Path.
They fill the case with about 11 dozen each day, and make more for their company deliveries. On weekends they deliver to churches and other community gatherings that call in orders.
They also serve sandwiches and wraps, including turkey, ham, tuna, BLT, and club served with chips and a pickle.
They have a variety of smoothies: strawberry, banana, mango, peach, berry, pineapple, tropical, California and peaches and crème. They use real fruit rather than the powder flavoring.
As a former bartender, Path said she can make a good smoothie, and that they are larger than most around but that the cost is not.
“I think the smoothies are awesome,” said Path. “It is nothing heavy and we use real fruit.”
The desert menu includes yogurt, fruit, flawn and tiramisu coffee cakes.
The espresso, cappuccino and latte machine is one the way. For now they offer regular and Vietnamese French pressed coffee.
This is a first business for the couple, but their relatives have been supportive in manpower and teaching the skills of running a business, from accounting and bookkeeping, to inventory and ordering. In fact, Nguyen’s sister came up with the name of the restaurant.
Path said she enjoyed her assembly job at Smith Medical but that the timing was right for the business as her line was facing a layoff. Nguyen continues his work as a contractor, specializing in home remodeling and building decks.
When Nguyen’s brother decided to focus on his auto repair shop the couple hadn’t been thinking about a business and were attracted to the possibilities of the coffee shop. They came in and completed a remodeling process, including a handcrafted counter, a handmade menu board that uses color chalk and a new tiled floor.
They added a flat screen television, tables and a sectional couch for a leisurely feel. The balanced black counters, tables and coffee frames with green pain and bright windows facing University Avenue.
“In the summer we will have a outside patio,” she added.
The result is a warm and welcoming atmosphere for people of all ages. Area businesses and nonprofits hold informal meetings and she hopes that area students will come here when they leave the library a block away, to have a smoothie and do their homework with the help of the WiFi.
With five children the couple has their hands full with the business, but said people are surprised that they get along so well working together.
“We work well together we actually do,” said Path. “…Its pretty simple for us, we like each others company.”
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