“You guys didn’t bring the peach-filled doughnuts this year?” I heard a patron yell out to the booth on a warm Saturday afternoon. “A new batch is coming right up,” the cashier responded with his pleasant smile. Every year, foodies and wine connoisseur’s alike gather in the south for another installment of Atlanta’s Food & Wine Festival. With five successful years under its belt, year six hosted over 100 vendors setting up shop to introduce their edible creations to purveyors. Some with hopes of gaining national exposure, with others just there to see pleased patrons flow by. Owners of local doughnut shop favorite Revolution Doughnuts & Coffee may not be there for all of the hype, but that hasn’t stopped them from getting rave reviews.
If you aren’t from the area, you may have never heard of Revolution Doughnuts before because there’s just one storefront location in Decatur, GA.
But, why? Why would a doughnut shop this popular not want to have a shop on every single corner?
Opening on National Doughnut Day in 2012, the exceptional doughnut company started selling their handcrafted doughnuts at the local farmer’s markets. Founded by self-taught baker and head doughnut maker Maria Moore Riggs, Revolution’s ability to become one of Atlanta’s most prized possessions was noticed right from the start by local foodies. “I started doing these baked doughnuts to sell at the farmer’s market, and they just were the hot ticket! People would run from the other side of the market to buy the doughnuts, and it just gave me the sense that people really craved comfort foods and things they really connect with from their childhood,” she stated.
As she talked about the moments of joy that came from having a doughnut as a child, I couldn’t help but drift off to my memory bank of summer mornings in Florida where my family and I would wake up to doughnuts and orange juice. Reserved for special days, I remembered just how much of a treat having one truly was. “Creating those memories of joy and happiness is what we need more of in this world,” I heard her say as I drifted back in from my own memory. “What’s the fan favorite doughnut? Mine is clearly the peach slider, but does everyone love them as much as I do?” I asked contemplating asking to be excused to grab a few from the new platter being put out. “Our all-time best-seller is the vanilla bean doughnut, but that’s just because some people just like to play it safe and keep it classic. But for sure during peach season, the slider is the hot number. Plus, we live in Georgia and peaches are the thing. It’s like the sweet moment right now for peaches.”
As I stood there with my sprinkled raspberry doughnut in my hand looking at the hordes of people fill the small area in the tent reserved for Revolution, I couldn’t help but wonder what really made these doughnuts as special as they are. “That’s one of our things is that we’re 100% made from scratch; we use organic flour, and we don’t use any artificial colors. Your doughnut is a great example,” Riggs pointed out. “The fact that you can find beautiful colors in nature. The raspberry sprinkled doughnut is a hot pink doughnut, but it’s 100% from the raspberry and we source these special sprinkles that are all made from natural colorants. We also make a lot of vegan doughnuts. It’s a whole different category of people who can go in and enjoy a doughnut that normally wouldn’t because of the additives in the dough.”
Though being an incredible baker has helped her company amass great success, being a woman in the industry has throw a few learning curves her way. “I think the hardest thing for me as a woman in the industry is learning to manage people,” she said. “Using a different style of management instead of this type of talk-down, militaristic style – which is often what you find in the kitchen environment. Where there’s usually a chef at the top giving orders, I’m much more egalitarian. I’m back in the kitchen every day, I’m washing dishes and mopping floors, and I’m glazing doughnuts. I do everything, and my team does everything. We help each other out; we work as a team. I’m not an authoritarian person by nature, so I’ve had male chefs say to me, “You have to yell at your employees more” and I just don’t operate that way. I don’t know if it’s a man/woman thing, but it’s definitely male/female culturally. I am much more egalitarian in the way that I operate, and I like it.”
But how, over four years, did the now beloved doughnut shop gain such a grand following? If you ask Maria, she’ll attribute it to the downturn of the economy. “People are really tightening their checkbooks for things like facials, pedicures, massages, dinners, and big trips, but they’re not tightening their budgets for a $2 doughnut. That’s a moment of bliss and it’s so affordable. It’s an experience that you can count on to be solid.”
If you’re hoping to have the Revolution make a stop in your town, you can get that out of your mind. Aside from their location in Decatur and the planned fall opening of their second bakery in Inman Park, this family owned business has no plans to franchise any time soon. Though I won’t knock the impact and chaos that ensues of the Krispy Kreme’s praised “Hot Light,” local bakeries will always be my thing. Whether you’re ready for it or not, the Revolution is here, and there’s nothing you can do about it.