Julea Wood knows doughnuts. Her Raleigh street dead-ends at the Person Street Krispy Kreme. And this fall, with partner James Dodgen, she will have a shop to call her own.
Tentatively set to open in October at 614 W. South St., Donut Theory will offer a rotating cast of 10 cake and yeast doughnuts to the Boylan Heights neighborhood. "We really want to bring something to that area," Wood says. "We really want to be a simple neighborhood doughnut shop."
Wood is not quite ready to announce a menu so many months in advance, but she promises local ingredients, including butter and eggs. "We'll be making a lot of trips to the farmers market," she says, explaining that recipes will "change seasonally or even a few times a week" depending on what's available.
In collaboration with Dodgen, Wood has experimented with several recipes in their home, admitting, "It's been a really fun process." But Wood is no stranger to the restaurant industry. She's managed and waited tables at Poole's Diner and grew up watching her father in the kitchen at Atlanta's beloved Taqueria del Sol, where he was one of the first employees. Doughnuts are also in Wood's blood. Her grandparents worked four years in a doughnut shop.
Dodgen, who waits tables at Raleigh Times, knows pastry shops, too. Originally from Southern California, he once frequented them in early mornings before heading out to surf. As a result, he long joked with Wood about eventually opening his own place.
Now the two are working with the Raleigh Architecture Co. to bring that plan to fruition. Wood anticipates the shop's hours as 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. at first. But as the business gets on its feet, she hopes to offer deliveries to other downtown businesses and expand with late-night hours. A patio with outdoor seating is also on the list of eventual plans.
Over the past few years, specialty doughnut shops have gained a foothold at stops across the country, including New York and Portland. But the trend has been relatively slow to make its way to the Triangle. That delay is somewhat reminiscent of the doughnut's early history in the South. Though the region had doughy biscuits and beignets, the northern doughnut, with roots in Manhattan, didn't proliferate here until the 1930s. When it arrived, however, it took off with the help of Vernon Rudolph, who opened the first Krispy Kreme in Winston-Salem in 1937.
It appears that artisanal doughnuts are finally ready to make headway, too. In recent months, two shops opened in Durham: Rise Biscuits and Donuts and Monuts Donuts. Donut Theory isn't far behind and will expand the map. As Wood sees it, "Raleigh needs a local doughnut shop."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Coffee dunkers, rejoice."