Doughnut Boom

Popular food truck duo brings fancy doughnuts to the Heights for a price: Who wants a hug?

Popular food truck duo brings fancy donuts to the Heights: Got hugs?

Hugs & Donuts doughnuts
Hugs & Donuts will serve a variety of creative flavors. Photo by Cut to Create
Hugs & Donuts kolaches
Savory options include kolaches . . .  Photo by Cut to Create
Hugs & Donuts fried chicken doughnut
. . . and fried chicken and doughnut sandwiches.  Photo by Haley Nguyen
Hugs & Donuts doughnuts
Hugs & Donuts kolaches
Hugs & Donuts fried chicken doughnut

Houston's collective obsession with the pastry-of-the-moment goes through cycles. First, it was cupcakes. Now, we're entranced by macaroons as part of a wave of bakeries (with more coming) making the French delicacy. It appears that, too, will soon be passé as the new, new thing arrives — gourmet doughnuts emulating the trend of shops like Gourdoughs in Austin and Voodoo Doughnut in Portland. 

Food truck Doughmaker has hit the streets and Glazed, profiled by CultureMap last month, will open soon. Now, Jason Hill and Matt Opaleski, the co-owners of long-running food truck H-Town StrEATs,  plan to open their own long-rumored doughnut shop in the Heights. Called Hugs & Donuts, the shop will feature sweet and savory doughnuts, Katz coffee, seating for 20 and a custom tap for housemade chocolate and strawberry milk — all in a spot next to Fat Cat Creamery.

"We're known for terrible names," Hill tells CultureMap. "Every name we looked up was already something else."

Natural decision

The decision to open a doughnut shop was a natural one, Hill says, since both chefs have pastry experience. "It’s a niche that’s not really filled in Houston," Hill says. "You have The Grove doing it way out west and Pena's doing it way out east (in Pearland). You have River Oaks Donuts doing it, but they’re not really doing anything really creative. They’re just doing a really good, exceptional doughnut."

 They launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 to fill the gap. "We could easily go through traditional financing routes, but we’re not a traditional company," Hill says. 

He also thinks the time is right. "We’ve always been behind the trends. Houston’s sort of conservative." 

Since Hugs & Donuts has been over a year in the planning stages, the pair's original estimate for the costs have escalated. On Tuesday, they launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 to fill the gap.

"We definitely need the money to push through, but we had enough money to start the whole project," Hill explains. "We could easily go through traditional financing routes, but we’re not a traditional company." 

Hill sees one of the benefits of using Kickstarter is that it helps build a community of people who are invested in the business, and they've created a variety of rewards to lure backers. For example, up to 450 people can purchase a Hugs & Donuts "black card" that brings one free doughnut per day for 20 years. The card has proven to be popular —  the initial run of 100 cards for $50 has already been claimed, and they've already bumped up the price to $75. Other options include a getting a name inscribed on one of the restaurant's chairs ($350) or having a dozen doughnuts delivered every week for a year ($500). An awkward hug from the somewhat shy Opaleski is $5.   

Rewards right away

With Hugs & Donuts set to open in July, backers won't have to wait long to collect. "We want to have the Kickstarter and a week or two later the doughnut shop opens so you can get your rewards right away," Hill explains. "We wanted to build that momentum into the doughnut shop." 

Asked whether he's confident about meeting the goal, Hill cites the endorsement of Cut to Create videographer Zach Jankovic, who produced two videos for the drive. "They spent 19 hours filming us one day . . . . He thinks we can raise a lot more than $50,000," Hill explains.

"He was willing to go with a percentage. The more we raise, the more the videographer receives."