Anne Rucker of Bogart's Doughnut Co. on success, new flavors, and quitting her day job
Anne Rucker of Bogart's Doughnut Co. -- south Minneapolis's latest pastry shop sensation -- has worn many hats in her lifetime. Rucker's former job as an attorney left her craving a creative outlet, which she eventually found in the form of Bogart Loves, a food blog named after her great aunt Esther Bogart, who taught her the basics of baking as a child.
Hannah Sayle Anne Rucker in her dream doughnut shop
Having achieved success on the blogosphere, Rucker took another step and began selling her baked goods at the Kingfield Farmers market, offering 15 to 20 rotating items, including brioche doughnuts. By the third year, she was strictly selling her doughnuts, which were popular enough for Rucker to set her sights on opening a brick-and-mortar doughnut shop.
Bogart's Doughnut Co. opened on May 30 on the corner of 36th and Bryant in south Minneapolis. Within days, customers desperate for a taste of Rucker's rich creations were lined up out the door.
This week, Hot Dish touched base with Rucker about her beginnings, goals for the future, and, of course, doughnuts.
Hot Dish: Tell us a little bit about your blog, Bogart Loves.
Rucker: I started it actually when I was practicing as an attorney, sort of as an outlet. I'd always loved food and baking and cooking, so I thought, "What could I do that would give me that sort of creative outlet?" I wanted to have to prove to myself that I was willing to put the work in. I thought if I can update a food blog every once in a while, that would be a first step. It was kind of a way for me to prove to myself that I would take it seriously if I were to pursue other things in food.
Did you know that you wanted to pursue a food-related business?
I think it was just I was feeling creatively stifled and feeling unhappy in my work. It was possibly something I thought about, but it wasn't something that I was focusing on. I think it was more just a creative outlet for me. I loved food and I loved cooking and baking, so I was waiting to see if it would produce some sort of other opportunity. I was waiting for a light bulb to go off.
Did the idea for Bogart's Doughnuts Co. arise from the food blog?
No, Bogart's Doughnuts came from the farmers market stand. When I started at Kingfield in 2011, I think I had probably 20 different things I was making. From there, I thought I could sort of determine what people really love and what people don't love as much and streamline my product offerings, which is what I did. I think by the second year of the market, I had cut most everything. I kept maybe three items by the second year. I always had the doughnuts. I started with the brioche doughnuts and people really liked those from the beginning. I think the first year was a way for me to really test the brioche and kind of fall in love with it. The third year was just doughnuts and now, obviously, it's just doughnuts.
Was brioche just something you were tinkering with?
Yeah. I'm someone who challenges myself to make things [that] aren't too sweet, but are rich in flavor. So with everything that I've made in the farmers market stand, I was like, "How can I make these so that they're super rich and decadent yet not crazy, overly sweet?" And the brioche dough, it's not a very sweet dough in itself, but it has that yeasty flavor, which I really like. So I [figured] if I rolled the dough in sugar or filled it was something or glazed it with something, [I'd] get the sweet from the glaze or the sugar or the filling but the dough wouldn't be super sweet and you'd have that contrast of the yeasty dough taste with the sugar. I wanted it to have a little more flavor.
How time-consuming is that process of making the dough?
I'm so used to it now that I don't really know any other way. We start making the dough the morning before. I think all in all, it's about 18 hours. Mixing takes each batch about an hour. There's various processes within that hour, and then there's a resting period for an hour and then it's refrigerated. The majority of the time that's put into it is refrigeration time. Once it's been refrigerated, we roll it out, cut it, and then it has to proof again.
How many people are working at Bogart's now?
I just actually looked at my payroll... a lot of these are part-time high school students who just work on the weekends, but I think we have 20 people on payroll right now. It's insane.
Did that number increase after you opened?
We opened with four people, including myself.
Were you expecting to have so much business after opening?
Absolutely not. I did not go into this thinking [it would be] a really popular doughnut shop. I went into this hoping it would be something that people enjoyed, but I never envisioned it to be as busy as it's been. I think I saw it as being a neighborhood coffee shop slash bakery. I was completely blindsided by the initial craze. I think a lot of that came from the fact that we couldn't produce a ton at the beginning, which kind of created this demand and buzz for it that I didn't necessarily like. I'd much prefer to let everyone who wants one of my doughnuts have one.
We moved very quickly to get a second fryer in so it could be a traditional bakery. We run out occasionally, but for the most part we're able to stay open until 12 or 12:30 [p.m.]. We're just a morning business. I don't use any preservatives in the dough, so it's really best eaten before 1 p.m. At this point, just having one fry in the morning works for us. If we decide to grow, having two fries a day might be something we explore.
How many doughnuts are you producing every day?
It depends on the day, but on weekends, we are making over 1,500 doughnuts each day.
Do you still have long lines of customers?
There are lines, but not like there were before, mostly because we're finishing up frying doughnuts usually right around the time we open. The case is full and we've gotten much more efficient at the counter. A lot of things have come together. Now people have learned that if they come a few hours after we open, they can still get doughnuts.
What happened to your job as an attorney?
I don't know if I ever really loved what I did. Cooking and baking have been things I've loved all my life. I think what happened is I didn't give myself a chance to think about it as a career -- I just thought of it as a hobby for so long. I enjoyed law school and enjoyed practicing, but it was never something that I loved doing. It was never passionate for me. I think that's why I started looking for other outlets creatively and by some stroke of luck, the food blog gave me the courage to start the farmers market stand and the farmers market stand gave me the courage to open my doughnut shop.
I feel very lucky that by being an attorney and kind of realizing that maybe this isn't something I really want to do, I was able to part-time put my creative energies out there, which led me to my current career. I thank my lucky stars every day just because I know there are people out there who are in careers they don't love or who think twice about things they think are outlandish or crazy that they wish they could do. I'm doing it right now. It really hasn't hit me yet that this is happening. I feel really, really lucky.
Do you think your background in law has helped you with opening the business?
Yeah, definitely. That analytical mind, questioning everything. It's a blessing and a curse. I think it has really helped me, especially because I've never started a business before or written a business plan. There's so much that goes into starting a business.
I feel like if I can do this, anyone can do it. I want people to work for me who have those dreams, because if I can teach them something or show them how hard it is or how awesome it is, then they can go on learning from me and learning from my whole process and do something for themselves. Then I've definitely served my purpose. I don't know if I'm necessarily someone to look up to, but if someone can look at me and say, "Hey, this girl did it, I'm gonna try it," that's the best thing I could get out of it for sure. I think more people should be like that and more people should take that risk that I took. I just want people to know that it's totally doable. When it's something that you love, I think most people are willing to put in the work.
Are you planning to keep things simple or will you add new doughnut flavors?
Right now we have six flavors. Tuesdays we have seven. I am just now getting to a place where I'm starting to get some sleep at night and I'm able to be testing a bit more. I'm kind of a crazy tester. Something has to be perfect before I'm willing to sell it. I'm really looking forward to having more flavors. I'm probably never going to have a ton of flavors at any one time, but I really want to be experimenting with seasonable fruits, fillings, or glazes and maybe doing a flavor of the month. That's what I'm really excited to do. So yeah, there will be more -- hopefully soon.
Send your story tips to Hot Dish.