There can be little doubt that the Pioneer Valley is one of the most unique places in Massachusetts, New England, or frankly anywhere in America. What makes it so special? In a lot of ways it just seems that the Valley is full of people who love what they do.
Like Keren Rhodes, for example. She and her husband Nick are passionate about doughnuts. Walking into their store, Glazed Doughnut Shop, located on North Pleasant Street in Amherst, is a wondrous experience. I visited on Friday, November 15 to talk to Keren about the store.
KEREN: How are you?
DAVID: Very well! What is this thing you’re working on now?
KEREN: I’m making glaze! (Machine turns on.) Now it’s going. It’ll mix for a while.
KEREN: We love food, we love to cook, so it seemed like a good match. And we are avid lovers of the mini-doughnuts at The Big E. And we’re like, “Why is this not in every single mall? Everyone comes to The Big E just the mini-doughnuts, so why wouldn’t they come get them at the mall?”
So that’s how we started, with a couple of mall-based locations with the mini-doughnuts and the big automated machine, like you see at The Big E. And then we just sort of went from there. We started experimenting with flavors and varities, and we found the people who are hanging out at the mall getting snacks were not so interested in things like Chai Tea Glaze or Spicy Doughnut, whatever, whatever we came up with. So we were looking for a way to sort of explore our creative side.
DAVID: The array of flavors and tastes is exciting, and more than a little surprising.
So looking at something like this, this Maple Bacon Bar, this sort of oval doughnut with what looks like a maple glaze and bacon, how did you get the idea for that? What was the process for that?
KEREN: So, Maple Bacon is something that’s sort of a food trend right now. There’s Maple Bacon ice cream, and there’s Maple Bacon chocolate.
DAVID: Is there really? Goodness.
KEREN: So we were just sort of jumping on the bandwagon of an existing food craze, but in our own way. So we used our Maple Glaze, which is really, really popular. We also use just a plain Maple Glaze (doughnut), and our French toast is also Maple Glaze. And we cook our own bacon every day so it’s nice and crispy, and we sprinkle it on top. And we just went with a different shape to differentiate it from all the rings.
DAVID: “The Elvis.” I love this: “Banana glaze with chocolate and peanut butter.” Lovely. And I seem to recall also that there was a doughnut that had tequila glaze?
KEREN: Yeah. So we took that out. We have a lot of stuff that goes through, we take it out, and we do something else. So it’s a lime glaze with a tequila drizzle and a little bit of salt. We’re done with that for now. Next week we’re gonna do an egg nog, brown sugar, and rum doughnut for the holidays. We have a strawberry daiquiri that we do.
We get to have some nice conversations with the local people. They stop, they have a cup of coffee, we chit-chat a little bit. We have regulars who get the same thing every time.
A lot of flavors are customer suggestions that have come in over the last year. We don’t have it out today, but there’s a Cinnamon Chili doughnut that we do, and that was a customer request. The Elvis banana doughnut was a customer request. A lot of them are. My sister came up with the Chai Glaze doughnut…truly Mom-and-Pop doughnut shop experience.
DAVID: For Street Level Sounds, this is David Baird. Street Level Sounds is a production of New England Public Radio: A Community-Based Audio Library of the Western New England Experience.