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KNEAD Doughnuts - VisitingNewEngland small business partnership

Finding the KNEAD for Great Doughnuts in Providence, Rhode Island

Knead Doughnuts in Providence, R.I.

A sampling of KNEAD doughnuts.

Article and photos by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 1/11/18.

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The homepage headline on the KNEAD Doughnuts web site states, "Good Doughnuts. Made Well." A better description would be "Great Doughnuts. Made Incredibly Well."

Taking a classic, timeless concept to the next level, KNEAD Doughnuts favors a lengthy process to create old-fashioned, cake and brioche-style doughnuts that simultaneously celebrate the artisan food movement of the 21st century while offering an authentic old-fashioned doughnut taste from yesteryear. No just-add-water to a lifeless doughnut mix here, no weird flavors, no artificial ingredients, and no crazy toppings that have no meaningful relation to the actual doughnut. Instead,  Doughnuts uses just seven simple, foundational ingredients and natural flavors to create the sweet magic.

On its own, just walking into KNEAD Doughnuts suggests something different than the typical doughnut shop. Located in a historic downtown building dating back to 1875 that was later remodeled for a brokerage firm, KNEAD Doughnuts has carried on the tradition of making dough, albeit in a different way from its wealth management predecessor.
 
Knead Doughnuts building in Providence, Rhode Island.KNEAD Doughnuts storefront.

KNEAD Doughnuts features at least a baker's dozen of wonderful design flourishes with a historic archway entrance, brass light fixture above, stately brick and concrete design, and inside, handsome wood floors, high-vaulted ceilings, tall old-style windows, gold trimmings made from brass, bright white walls, wooden block tables, thin hanging lights, a beautiful old-style analog wall clock, a large window looking into the spotless kitchen and, of course, an expansive doughnut display case at the front of the counter.

Dining area at Knead Doughnuts in Providence, R.I.
Dining area at KNEAD Doughnuts.

At that counter, KNEAD employees like Camille Champ constantly bring out freshly-baked doughnuts...

Fresh doughnuts being brought out to the front counter at Knead Doughnuts in Providence, R.I.
Colleen Champ, a senior at Johnson and Wales University and employee at KNEAD Doughnuts, brings out fresh doughnuts.

The doughnut selection goes beyond a baker's dozen, however, starting with both a permanent and rotating seasonal display of old-fashioned and creative kinds like vanilla-glazed made with real vanilla bean, chocolate chip cookie, and spiced chai. The cake doughnuts include chocolate, chocolate peanut butter and "Snickerdoodle." The brioche doughnuts, which require a 24-hour fermentation process to bring out rich flavors, include vanilla glazed, cinnamon roll, passion fruit, brown butter pecan and cranberry pecan crumble.

For fans of the filled doughnut, Knead does a wonderful job with peanut butter and jelly, plain jelly, and Boston Cream. The fritters are out-of-this-world delicious like the raspberry fritter with chopped brioche formed together with raspberry and topped with a raspberry glazed.

Raspberry fritter from Knead Doughnuts in Providence, R.I.
Raspberry fritter from KNEAD Doughnuts.

"We have spent a lot of time with research and development and our goal is to make everything true to taste," said Adam Lastrina, who oversees the day-to-day operation and co-owns KNEAD with Todd Mackey and Bryan Gibb. "When we make a raspberry fritter, it will taste like raspberry. We use real fruit and no artificial flavors and colors!"

Adam Lastrina, co-owner at Knead Doughnuts in Providence, Mass.
Adam Lastrina, of KNEAD Doughnuts.

Add some highly professional, friendly front and back end of the bakery employees to create the doughnuts and serve the customers makes the overall experience just that much sweeter. This is a first-class operation in every aspect.

KNEAD Doughnuts opened on Dec. 21, 2016
with its name derived from a double-meaning defining the process of forming a dough product and also needing it for consumption. With a memorable business name and an approach to doughnut-making that truly taps into the art and science of this craft, KNEAD Doughnuts has already built a huge, faithful following despite being located on a narrow, hidden downtown street where parking is hard to find. Lastrina, Mackey and Gibb knew, however, that Providence had a void in the growing artisan doughnut industry and decided to bring their unique work experiences to open KNEAD. Lastrina, a Johnson and Wales University graduate with a degree in hotel and restaurant management, worked 13 years as a general manager at Seven Stars Bakery in Providence. Gibb and Mackey co-founded Bolt Coffee Company in Providence. Mackey serves as a coffee importer for Olam Specialty Coffee in downtown Providence. He brings an added advantage to KNEAD Doughnuts as a trained roaster, and even travels to Central America annually to find the best harvest as he meets with local farmers.

"It's definitely an extreme advantage having Todd's (coffee expertise,)" smiled Lastrina.

With American staples in doughnuts and coffee being served at its highest quality, business has boomed with, on its best days, up to 2,500 doughnuts sold. Even on Sunday when Providence oddly takes on the look and feel of a small town with not much open, KNEAD has prospered -- it is, in fact, their best day for selling doughnuts. Customers arrive constantly, often in groups to order a variety of doughnuts to share.

"It's odd, but on Saturday and Sunday, Providence is very sleepy with not a lot going on," said Lastrina, a Peterborugh, N.H., native now living in Seekonk, Mass. We were thinking initially that we should stay closed on Sundays. Thank goodness we didn't. It's our busiest day. There's not an empty seat here."

Lastrina knows, however, that the successful business has its limitations with a need to go beyond the current 2,000 sq. ft. environs.  Consequently, he will soon be opening a second KNEAD Doughnuts on 135 Elmgrove St. in Providence, just outside Wayland Square. The east side location will feature more seating and better parking to complement the existing and thriving flagship KNEAD bakery and doughnut-making facility.

KNEAD Doughtnuts has come a long way since taking over a formerly boarded-up building with no electricity and no gas. The building has not only been restored, but also the reality of what a real doughnut should taste like.

Chocolate doughnuts from Knead Doughnuts in Providence, RI.
Chocolate doughnuts from KNEAD.

"We wanted to be conscious of putting out a timeless product," said Lastrina. "We didn't want to get caught up in the 'next big thing.' You'll remember that cupcakes were big and then fizzled out after five years.. Doughnuts have withstood the test of time, but we are not about making crazy favors. We make about 16 types of doughnuts a day and do everything from scratch... We just focus on a few things and don't try to be everything to everybody. We just focus on making good doughnuts."


No, make that great doughnuts!
 
KNEAD Doughnuts is located at 32 Custom House St. in Providence, RI. Tel. (401) 865-6622.  Web site: http://www.kneaddoughnuts.com. Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/KNEAD-Doughnuts-1190809734294544/. Twitter page: http://www.twitter.com/kneaddoughnuts



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