donut comes full circle
owners of The Sisters McMullen bakery, Heather and Andrea, see their
stores as the Cheers of the donut world. And sure enough,
they are well on their way to being a place where everybody knows
have gotten to know their customers well, thus the analogy to the famous
Boston bar that was more a gathering place than anything else.
Yes, it seems the popularity of the donut has come full circle, rolling
back in on the heels of the bagel revolution. The Sisters McMullen Bakery
is now in two Asheville locations providing coffee, donuts, pastries,
and soups to a steadily increasing clientele.
just get the obvious questions out of the way. Yes, they are real sisters,
and yes, they are real McMullens. And no, they are not a spin-off of
the movie The Brothers McMullen. What they are are two enterprising,
hardworking women who lovingly prepare tasty food to the patrons who
have become a sort of extended family.
They opened their first shop three years ago in the space that had formerly
been The Donut Wheel on Merrimon Avenue. We have been incredibly
lucky to have such great customers, says Heather. People
just seem to like us. Some people even say they want to be an honorary
sister. One customer recently told me how tired and run
down I looked and offered to let me stay at her home for a few days
so she could take care of me.
owe the success of their bakery to good food that is reasonably
priced, says Andrea. We believe that people eat with their
eyes, adds Heather. Our food not only has to taste really
good, it also has to look amazing. Everything in our store is baked
fresh each day.
is no easy task. These women are up long before the rosy glow of dawn.
They arrive at the bakery at 2:30thats in the morning, of
courseto start preparing the donuts.
get used to it, says Heather. I always say that the early
morning is my favorite time of the day because I can get so much done.
We fry donuts for four hours every morning. Then we have a mini break
before we actually open to the public. We close in the middle of the
afternoon, but there are always other things to do. Things like
managing the business end (they now have eight employees) and changing
their locations. Because they needed more preparation space and because
their lease was running out, the sisters opened a second location in
the Newbridge Shopping Center in Woodfin and moved the Merrimon store
downtown, next to Rio Burrito on Broadway.
business is doing well. Weve had an 65 percent increase
in sales from our purchase date, says Heather, who is has a degree
in Culinary Arts from A.B. Tech and has managed restaurants, including
an Einstein Brothers Bagels in one of the busiest sections of Washington,
background is in human services, in helping people. From her perspective,
she feeds that impulse by providing her customers with that much-needed
cup of coffee and sweet treat to make their day a little better. When
we make a wedding cake or a christening cake I know that we are helping
people. We give them the piece of mind that everything will be alright.
We help make their milestones even more special, says Andrea.
when Heather and Andrea decided to join forces, it became a family affair.
Our dad has been so supportive of this. Hes painted walls,
replaced ceiling and floor tiles, and hes even washed dishes for
us, say the sisters. But it doesnt stop there. Spouses and
significant others have been known to help fry donuts at four in the
morning before rushing off to other jobs. Even Andreas two kids,
who are three and six years old, like to pitch in.
for two sisters working together, Andrea says, Its no different
than any relationship between co-workers. Our personalities and work
ethic are similar enough that we work well together. Their skills
complement each other. Heather is the resident wedding cake specialist,
for example, while Andrea creates novelty cakes.
Andrea and Heather are originally from Lancaster, PA, in the heart of
Pennsylvania Dutch Country, where baking is a way of life. Although
their family moved to Asheville when they were young, that ethic left
its mark. You had to get to the bakery really early or youd
be left with the dregs. Our dad cooked a lot. And every year we made
about 30 dozen Christmas cookies. We didnt even give them away.
We ate them all. So weve always loved to experiment with baking.
have quickly learned a few marketing tricks. We think having people
taste our product is the best way to entice them into our stores. So
we stand outside the Broadway store and hand out free donuts. And at
the end of the day we give any remaining donuts to people walking around
or to charities like Loving Food Resources and Mountain Area Hospice
to give away with meals.
owning their own business, the Sisters McMullen realize the plusses
and minuses of working for themselves. The plusses of working with family
and transforming customers into friends makes those early mornings more
Sisters McMullen Broadway location is open Tuesday through Friday from
7:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., and on Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The
Woodfin location hours are Tuesday through Friday from 7:00 a.m.-2:00
p.m., and on Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to noon.
lives in south Asheville with her husband and two daughters, Molly and
Isabel. In her spare time she hikes, volunteers in classrooms, and dreams
of writing childrens books. [ firstname.lastname@example.org