Jessica Sanchez has been around Tonallis Doughnuts & Cream since she was 7, but her co-workers and manager told her from the beginning that she couldn’t be a baker because she was a woman.
“They said that it was a heavy job,” she said. “A lot of lifting and heavy work.”
While working with her brother, she watched as he was taught how to cut and maneuver the dough while Sanchez was learning to fry.
“I kept asking them: When are you going to teach me how to cut?”
Finally, after years of prodding, she got the opportunity.
“On my first day of learning how to cut, I did it way better than my brother,” she said. “Then (her co-workers) said: ‘She’s going to be way better.’ ”
In August, Sanchez and her father purchased the doughnut shop at 12321 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd. Sanchez is bringing the shop into the 21st century with new techniques and ideas to generate revenue.
Set in a black-and-white checkered-floor shop, Sanchez is usually the one you find behind the large glass display case upon entering. Dozens of doughnuts are splayed out to entice customers before ordering, and Sanchez takes the orders with delight.
Born and raised in Vancouver, Sanchez was introduced to the food industry at age 6 at her father’s Mexican restaurant in Longview. He opened a second location in Vancouver, where she would often stay.
At age 14, Sanchez began working at Tonallis, near her father’s restaurant, because it was the only place that would hire her at that age. She worked simultaneously at the restaurant, too.
“I’ve always had two or four jobs at a time,” she said.
After graduating from Heritage High School in 2014, Sanchez had her sights set on owning her own restaurant, like her father. The two bought a food truck and planned on serving Mexican food out of it. But then the pandemic struck, and her boss, the former owner of Tonallis, wanted to sell the doughnut shop.
“He offered the opportunity,” Sanchez said. “My dad and I took it.”
At the end of August, the father-and-daughter pair became co-owners.
Since taking over, Sanchez has brought in a professional baker to consult about Tonallis’ doughnut-making.
“There’s so many techniques,” she said. “I’m trying to do my own style.”
Sanchez learned and introduced the method of specifically measuring out the ingredients to have consistency in the recipes by using digital scales.
“Before, they didn’t have specific measurements,” she said. They’d say, ‘This scoop is about four pounds.’ ”
She also began using thermometers to measure the temperature of the ingredients before making dough.
“You have to take the temperature of flour before making dough,” she said. “If the dough mix is really cold, it will drop the temperature and change the dough.”
Sanchez also began making and selling giant doughnuts for special occasions, such as birthday parties. Photos posted on the store’s Instagram page show customers holding large number-shaped doughnuts to reflect their age for their birthdays.
“So far it’s been really popular,” she said.
Business has been slow for Tonallis during the pandemic, but Sanchez said she has faith that it will pick up.
In the future, Sanchez hopes to expand Tonallis to more locations in Vancouver.
“I hope to open more doughnut shops and keep it going,” she said. “My mother is really into the Hispanic community, and I also want to do something like that. I want people to know that I’m a Latina, and everyone is welcome here.”