Local Small Business Stories
Country Kitchen Donuts: An Amazing, Old-Fashioned Doughnut Shop in
Doughnuts are made on the premises daily at Country Kitchen Donuts in
by Eric Hurwitz. Article updated on 11/20/16
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A recent Sunday morning scene at Country Kitchen Donuts in
Walpole revealed a wonderfully familiar, classic slice of small town
Parents waited in line for doughnuts and coffee while their young kids
jumped up and down in anticipation of bringing home a box of their
favorite flavors. Elderly men -- some wearing 1920s-style flat caps --
sat together on old-fashioned stools at the diner-like counter either
conversing passionately about the news of the world or stoically
bonding together in virtual silence, just happy to be with each other
and away from the faster-paced world on the other side of the window.
Families and friends, some coming right from church, convened at
several dining area tables to also enjoy time together before taking on
a mountain of homework, deadlines, commitments and other
responsibilities before the impending Monday work and school days.
Looking across the old-fashioned Country Kitchen dining room and
take-out area begged for answers to questions that seem eternal: What
is it about doughnuts and coffee that bring together people? What is it
about the aromas of doughnuts and coffee that elicit
good feelings? Why do doughnuts and coffee continue to appeal to a
cross section of people and generations in a world that has become more
These questions might not ever be fully answered, but one certainty
remains: from the proliferation of doughnuts shops in the 1940s to this
very day, these small business treasures have always tapped into the
heart, soul and taste buds of a local’s way of life.
Mouthwatering chocolate sprinkle donuts from Country Kitchen
Country Kitchen Donuts serves as a strong example of the
quintessential, small business doughnut shop. Country Kitchen has been
in business nearly 50 years with its core recipe for success virtually
unchanged from the beginning -- that is, creating delicious hand-cut
doughnuts and serving them with a good cup of coffee and a commitment
to salt-of-the-earth, efficient service.
John Stevens, his dad Jim Stevens and Uncle George Stevens bought
Country Kitchen Donuts in 1979. George soon left the business and Jim
eventually retired from ownership, thus leaving John with the option to
buy out his dad’s half of the business. Having worked mostly in the
back room while his dad was “a jack of all trades,” John had a
challenge ahead as the sole owner. John had bakers’ DNA in his
blood, however, when growing up in the Worcester and Albany, New York
areas where his dad managed sales for Table Talk Pies.
Stevens, with his experience at Country Kitchen Donuts and possessing
an associate’s degree in restaurant and hotel management from
Schenectady Community College in Schenectady, New York, worked
countless hours to turn the Walpole doughnut shop into something
special. Based on a foundation of hard work and sticking to what has
worked best, Stevens ultimately created a local landmark and household
Country Kitchen Donuts has been a staple in the Walpole area for
nearly 50 years.
“We have survived,” said Stevens, in his early 60s, who arrives to work as
early as 3:45 a.m. “We have a quality product. We have friendly, good
service. We get to know customers by first name. Everyone knows each
other. We have some great employees and I take great care in treating
them well -- like the way I would want to be treated... I love people
and customers. It is a pleasant place here. I try to make it a good day
for everyone and don’t come in grumpy. I treat the kids that work here
like my kids.”
While tried-and-true favorites like jelly and lemon-filled (“we use the
pastry lemon, not the ‘doughnut’ lemon filling,” said Stevens),
chocolate covered, honey dip and cruller-style doughnuts -- as well as
coffee cake muffins, whoopie pies, danish, turnovers and the New
England Coffee brand -- remaining favorites, Stevens knows that keeping
up with customer preferences is also a key to remaining a viable
business. As an example, Country Kitchen got town approval to serve egg
sandwiches, which will start in a few months. They also specialize in
seasonal baked goods and coffee like the fall time pumpkin whoopie pies
and winter egg nog coffee. Ninety five percent of the products at
Country Kitchen are made in its own kitchen, according to Stevens.
Jaime Rea fills the donuts with jelly at Country Kitchen Donuts.
“It’s the best little place locally,” said Steve DeCampo, who once worked
across the street as a mechanic at Main Street Mobil. “I love it -- the
friendly atmosphere and tasty treats.”
Many of the older staff have been employed at Country Kitchen for
years. Manager Cheryl Jennings has worked at Country Kitchen for 15+
years, Roberta Page for nearly the same amount of time and Jaime Rea
The queen of long-time employment, however, was Madeline Taylor, who, until recently, worked at Country Kitchen for
about 30 years.
“I like people,” said Taylor, not too long before retiring. “I get along with everyone. If they
don’t like me, they move out (laughs). I do have some very old friends
-- old like me. Some are 90 or so... They (Country Kitchen) give me day
old doughnuts and I bring them over to the senior center. They still
like me there.”
Taylor, who was born during the Great Depression, is a lifelong
resident, once living in the Ginley home (today, it’s a funeral home)
and working at the Kendall Mills factory complex where she said, “I
probably made the diapers you wore.” She was married 57 years (her
husband died several years ago) and has five children. Having worked a
career at Country Kitchen all those years -- she wouldn’t have had it any
“I like everything about Country Kitchen,” said Taylor, who still has a
vibrant sense of humor and sense of irony. “John is good. The girls are
good. Sometimes they give me a hard time because I am so old. I want
everything perfect and they know they have to work with this old lady
who wants it that way.”
Country Kitchen owner John Stevens holds Madeline Taylor's job
application from about 30 years ago.
Rea, grew up in Walpole but moved away from her small town hometown
many years ago to pursue an education in criminology. After a long time
away -- primarily living in Florida -- Rea returned to her hometown as
a single parent living a few blocks from Country Kitchen. She needed a
“I could walk to work at Country Kitchen, so I started there” said Rea,
a self-taught cook who once prepared a meal for Julia Child at a
restaurant she had been employed at in Providence’s Federal Hill. “It
is almost like family here. Working here, to me, is a fun thing to do.
John has had a great going with his small business. He has survived and
thrived in this business for a long time.”
She added, “The regulars who come in here have done so as long as
Madeline has been here. They can sit here is silence. They enjoy it and
are comfortable over cups of coffee. It’s like meditation with
“The work ethic carries on,” said Stevens, of his staff. “It’s hard to
replace that kind of work ethic. I see promise in the young kids -- and
they do a great job -- but it is the older employees that set the
standard. They have been doing it for such a long time.”
Stevens added, “We get nice kids working here, Sometimes we find out
through word-of-mouth who might be a good candidate to work here. There
are college girls who started as freshmen in high school. Some that
don’t work here anymore send me Christmas cards and come in to visit. I
feel that this is their first job and if you don’t start out well at
the first job, it’s going to be tough in the long run. It’s very
important to me that they are happy here and do a good job.”
A younger staff ably services the crowds on a Sunday morning at
Country Kitchen Donuts.
Behind the scenes, Stevens and his bakers go through the painstaking
process of hand-making the doughnuts, and heating the baked goods at an
exact temperature and time while taking into consideration seasonal
temps that also affect the final product. It’s hard work to meet
customer demand while paying attention to food detail, as Country
Kitchen Donuts sells about 50 dozen doughnuts on the weekday and
up to 150 dozen on the weekend, according to Stevens.
“To be consistent, you have to go through a few seasons to perfect the
art of doughnut making,” said Stevens. “My bakers have seen it all. We
just make sure we do it right.”
Stevens also renovated Country Kitchen by himself a few years back,
replacing the knotty pine walls with new woodwork as well as putting in
floor tile, and thus following in the footsteps of his dad’s
“jack-of-all-trade” skill set.
Stevens has seen it all throughout his 40+-year career in the food
business, including the thrill of experiencing generations coming to
his doughnut shop and hiring, through the years, generations of locals.
Married since to 1981 to his wife Tova and with three grown up children
-- Trevor, Ryland (who worked at Country Kitchen many years) and Olivia
-- Stevens’ deep ties to Walpole as an adopted hometown and a place to
do business has resulted in a blessed life.
“We have had the same jobs out married lives,” said Stevens, of he and
Tova. “That has been good for our quality of life. We live a half mile
up the road (from Country Kitchen).
In the doughnuts business, some business are too gung-ho too soon and
they burn out after a few years. It’s all about pacing and consistency
in turning out a good product. I love my small town community. People
here in Walpole understand small business and we are glad they support
us. I feel good to work this job and look forward to more.”
Country Kitchen Donuts is located at 745 Main St., Walpole MA. Tel.
New! Read about the second Country Kitchen Donuts that recently opened in Millis, Mass.
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