"Everyone has that perfect doughnut in their mind from when they were a little kid," says Greg Menna, co-founder of Barracks Row's District Doughnut. "We're looking to create that nostalgia."
It's one of the missions for District Doughnut, a company several years in the making which will make its soft opening debut tonight. The doughnut shop is the brainchild of childhood friends Menna and Juan Pablo Segura, along with Christine Schaefer, the Buffalo pastry chef they met by chance and roped into their adventure.
"We're not reinventing the wheel," explains Menna. "We're taking two products that have combined to be an American classic for almost the entire last century." The key to their business plan, Menna says, is to keep doughnuts from being the kind of tired product that languishes, half-eaten, at office gatherings.
That means carefully-made doughnuts in unique flavors like dulce de leche and cannoli. They've paired it with a coffee program courtesy of upstarts Compass Coffee (the Barracks Row location will serve drip coffee rather than a full espresso program).
District Doughnut investigated several neighborhoods before settling on Barracks Row, where there are young families, Marine customers and a variety of other demographics they can cater to. The doughnut makers enlisted CORE DC to develop a shop that would draw customers in, let them see the doughnut-making process and make them feel at home. Designer Daniel Chapman used such accents as bright teal pops of color, a stone floor, crown moulding and stainless steel and wood materials to create the design.
"It was very clear they wanted the shop to feel sophistical and clean, well organized
and reflect the high quality of the product," said Chapman. He describes the shop as a "glowing beacon," tempting customers who walk by to come in and grab a doughnut.
Menna's favorite doughnuts right now are the cookies and cream cake doughnut and a blueberry almond cream yeast one. They're also working on a Nutella bacon one that will be a tribute to a CrossFit instructor friend of theirs.
District Doughnut's official opening isn't scheduled until the week of September 8, but they'll be hosting a number of soft opening events during August to give customers an early taste of the product. They'll open tonight and serve 500 free doughnuts to the first customers.
This District Doughnut location won't be the last. Menna is keeping expansion plans close to the vest, but built the kitchen at the Barracks Row location to be large enough to serve other offshoots.
· District Doughnut [Official Site]
· All Previous District Doughnut Coverage [-EDC-]