Home Fairfield Entrepreneur fills hole in eclectic-doughnut market

Entrepreneur fills hole in eclectic-doughnut market

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You may have to be crazy to open a restaurant in today’s crowded field, but Jason Wojnarowski has found his own niche with Donut Crazy — which, as its name suggests, specializes in “crazy” doughnuts.

Indeed, the racks at its four Connecticut locations — Shelton, Westport, Stratford and New Haven, with two more on the way — are divided between “dailies,” which include such mainstays as glazed, jelly and Boston cream, and “crazies,” which range from the Peanut Butter Explosion — chocolate cake covered in peanut butter buttercream and Reese’s Puffs cereal, drizzled with dulce de leche and vanilla and topped with a swirl of peanut butter —and Holiday Cheer — a yeast ring dipped in chocolate and topped with Oreos, Peppermint Patties, chocolate-covered pretzels and holiday M&M’s — to Crème Brulee, Apple Pie and…Maple Bacon?

“It really is good,” Wojnarowski said of the latter at his store at the Westport train station.

donut crazy
Jason Wojnarowski

“Crazy” could also describe the growing chain’s fans, with fried-dough devotees traveling miles from their homes to sample Wojnarowski’s doughnuts. In the two years since he opened his first store at 785 River Road in Shelton, Donut Crazy has picked up more than 24,000 followers on Instagram, the photo-sharing social media site where he alerts doughnut fans to new “crazies,” which are typically rotated in every four to six weeks. Some 45 varieties are available each day, Wojnarowski said.

The doughnut entrepreneur came to the business in an unusual way.

He had worked at his father’s construction business in Stratford, Wojnarowski & Sons, for a number of years when his father decided to hang up his hammer.

When Shelton’s Donut Inc. went out of business, “We bought it to keep our parents busy,” Wojnarowski said.

Relying on wholesaler Devore for their supply of doughnuts, the family was stymied when Devore closed its wholesale division.

“Howard Saffan, who’s a friend (and developer of Bridgeport’s Harbor Yard Amphitheatre), said to me, ‘Why don’t you do it yourself?’” Wojnarowski recalled. “I thought, why not? But let’s make them cool doughnuts.”

Lacking any baking experience, Wojnarowski said he learned his craft through the internet and experimentation. He’s since amassed hundreds of potential recipes suggested by friends, family members and customers.

The Shelton store, which is still run by his parents, “was an immediate success, and that’s the really crazy part,” he said. “There are a lot of phenomenal doughnut shops in the area, but we were able to get across that we were doing something a little
different.”

Part of what sets Donut Crazy apart is its “hand-forged, crafted with love” approach. “We still mix and cut the dough and finish them by hand,” Wojnarowksi said. “The only automation is with the frying.”

Donut Crazy has since opened locations at 3690 Main St. in Stratford, 290 York St. in New Haven and in the Westport train station at 1 Ferry Lane. Its workforce has grown to about
60 employees.

This month it exited the space it shared with Vietnamese eatery Nom-eez at 2992 Fairfield Ave. in Bridgeport’s Black Rock neighborhood, having outgrown it, according to Wojnarowski. However, the Westport store continues to sell “grab and go” items from Nom-eez and South Norwalk’s Match Restaurant and Wojnarowski said a return to Bridgeport could be in the cards.

Donut Crazy plans to open two locations in the new year, at 972 Main St. in Branford in January and at 993 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford in the spring.

“We try to go where we see demand and from what our customers tell us,” he said. Even with the expansion, Wojnarowksi said he plans to maintain his hand-crafted approach.

Donut Crazy’s revenues are up 10 to 20 percentin 2017, he said, though much of that is from increased volume due to the new stores opening. On a year-over-year basis, he said, each store has seen revenue rise about 5 percent.

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