Story #4Bogart’s Doughnut Co.Minneapolis, MN

I went into law school thinking I would be helping people. It didn’t turn out like that. Bogart’s feels like I am providing something for people and making them happy.

The sun is rising on a cold Minneapolis winter’s day. But inside the doors of Bogart’s Doughnut shop, it couldn’t be cozier as the sweet smell of freshly baked brioche doughnuts fills the room.

It’s only 6:30 in the morning and owner Anne Rucker is already halfway through her work day. Having arrived at the shop a little before midnight to prepare the day’s batch, the mother of a two-year-old daughter is starting to feel tired. But she knows her favorite part of her day is about to start: meeting customers and sharing her doughnuts.

Anne is the first to admit that owning a doughnut shop is a far cry from her former life as an attorney. “I thought if I can do something I love and make money I would prove to myself that it was worth the risk.”

Like most entrepreneurs, this doggedly determined woman started small and part-time, selling her baked goods at a local farmers market. Making the jump to brick and mortar was a risk, but she knew the rewards would be worth it.

Today, just a few minutes before opening time, she places a rack of her warm, fresh doughnuts in the window. There’s a crowd of eager customers already lined up outside the door, and Anne Rucker knows it’s all been worth it.

Photos by Shaul Schwarz & Christina Clusiau

  • “I’m happiest when my customers are happy with their doughnuts.”

  • A Bogart’s patron flashes the loot during the Twin Cities Doughnut Crawl.

  • Rucker says doughnuts tend to bring out the best in everyone.

  • “I think more shops would be great, but I haven’t even thought that far ahead yet,” Rucker says.

  • “It’s hard for me to be a boss, but I’m figuring it out. I have amazing employees and I couldn’t be doing this without them."

  • …and they usually sell out by noon. Rucker says, “Once they’re gone, they’re gone, you know?”

  • The line is usually around the corner before the shop opens…

  • On the menu are seven types of doughnuts: brown butter glazed, raised glazed, vanilla bean buttercream-filled, Nutella-filled, chocolate cake, lavender cake, and sprinkle cake.

  • Doughnuts are stacked, racked and ready for sale.

  • The doughnuts are ready by dawn.

  • “I was a practicing attorney who was looking for a change. I've always had a love for cooking and baking and decided to try to direct my passion into a business.”

  • “I began by selling at local farmers markets. The one thing that people really loved, that always sold out first, were the brioche doughnuts."

  • Bogart’s opens at 7:30am.

  • Warm air from baking and frying fogs the window just before opening.

  • Owner Anne Rucker believes doughnuts are almost always too sweet. “We use a secret recipe brioche dough,” which keeps the doughnuts airier. “And we don’t use any preservatives.”

  • Tzvetelina fills a batch of doughnuts with Nutella.

  • Bogart’s keeps things intentionally simple. A doughnut with a hole is $2. A doughnut without a hole is $3.

  • Around 2am, one of Rucker’s star employees, Tzvetelina, prepares doughnuts.

  • At midnight, Bogart's is closed to the outside world. Inside, it's humming with activity.

Q & A

When the last doughnut was sold, we had a cup of coffee with Anne.

Why brioche? And what’s so secret about your recipe?

I had been making a variety of different things at the farmers market, and thought: How can I make doughnuts better? I wanted to do something different, and I loved brioche so I thought I’d try that. It was really important to me that the actual dough – without anything on top – tasted amazing. I read about 100 brioche recipes, and tried about 50 variations before I settled on my own blend.

How did you find your staff?

I started Bogart’s with two other people, but what ended up happening is that we literally just had people turning up at the store saying ‘I read about your story, I think it’s a really cool story and I want to work for you.’ We only have about three people who know the brioche recipe. People really take pride in it and are excited about it, and I’m very thankful. I have the best staff imaginable; I couldn’t do this without them.

Do you think you are having a ripple effect in helping other people find their right path in life too?

Yes absolutely, I look at us six months in and we are at a place where we have staff who really love food, and who want to do things of their own on the side. So I think a lot of people that work for me are really trying to learn something and put it towards their own lives in the future. It’s cool to see it become this grand experiment where everyone is learning together.

Bogarts is only six months old and often have a line out the door, are you surprised at your success?

I didn’t expect this at all. It’s still a little surreal to me. I’m a pretty humble person, so it’s been really overwhelming, but fantastic. I never anticipated having people be upset that they missed out on doughnuts! I want everyone to get doughnuts.

Were you tired in the beginning?

Tired is an understatement. I equated opening Bogart’s to having a newborn. I was getting about two hours of sleep a night just because of when you have to bake. I was crying all the time. It was absolutely the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It was a lot, but I never considered giving up. My husband and family saw me ease into it with the farmers market and they believed in me and we never looked back.

What impact has owning your own small business had with how you interact with your own community?

As a small business owner I am really motivated to collaborate with other small business and become part of the community. You have people from the neighborhood talk about what they are doing and what they are interested in and that they love your product. I’m not introverted, but I’m certainly not the community outreach type person. But, through Bogart’s, I feel like we’ve been able join forces with other small business and that’s something I want to do more of in the future.

Is Bogart’s something you want to share with more people? What are your plans for the future?

It’s taken me a while to allow myself to think about becoming more than we are now, but the longer we are open, I see my employees and it’s not just me, I want to give them more responsibility and opportunities. I am certainly now getting the itch to see how we can challenge ourselves more.

Business Details

Proprietor: Anne Rucker
904 W 36th Street Minneapolis, MN 55408
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