DENVER — When Gabe Henning and Michael Milton were laid off from their jobs running a Denver coffee shop when restaurants were ordered to move to pickup or delivery only due to COVID-19, they wanted to find a way to stay busy and make ends meet.
Henning is a pastry chef by trade, and they started to experiment with baking cakes. As it turns out, Hennings and Milton said, making donuts is a lot more fun. And as an added bonus, they photograph really well.
“We had a ton of fun making donuts. We didn’t really know what we were going to do with it, so the next day, I woke up and started an Instagram account called ‘Pandemic Donuts’ and it kind of just took off from there,” said Milton.
Pandemic Donuts started as an idea that would hopefully help them pay the bills. But thanks to social media, it has taken off. The Denver couple turned their kitchen into a donut factory and found success almost overnight.
“I think by the next day, we were sold out for the day. And at that time, we were just taking orders through direct message,” said Milton.
Since then, they’ve set up a website to post their menu and take orders. The donuts rotate on a daily basis and each box of a dozen or half-dozen includes a variety pack with four different flavors.
“It’s something for people to look forward to,” said Henning. “It makes them stop thinking about what’s going on right now for even just a couple minutes, you know. So that’s awesome.”
Henning comes up with different flavors every week and then posts them online. Customers can choose which day they want to order based on the flavors being offered. She always tries to include traditional favorites, like powdered sugar or glazed donuts, along with a few unique flavors, like rosemary lemon, lavender sugar, or strawberry cheesecake.
“So the concept, from the beginning, is to let the donuts kind of speak for themselves and hope people like them,” said Milton.
If their sales are any indication, people seem to like them a lot. Their small kitchen is practically bursting at the seams with donuts as they turn out upwards of 300 per day.
Pandemic Donuts is operating under the Colorado Cottage Foods Act, which allows people to sell products like non-refrigerated baked goods directly to consumers without licensing or inspection. They are offering contact-free delivery or curbside pickup.
“I never thought it would blow up like this. It’s kind of crazy,” said Henning.
Online orders open at the beginning of the week and Pandemic Donuts is consistently selling out days in advance. The owners are now searching for a commercial kitchen space and hope they can eventually open a retail location with a coffee shop. Henning and Milton are also proud of the fact that they’ve been able to hire a few friends in the industry who were out of work.
“That has felt really good to be able to hire a couple people, and that’s the goal moving forward as well, is to get more service industry people in here,” said Milton.