Seattle may have the Seahawks, Amazon and grunge music, but it doesn’t have the best doughnut shop in Washington — at least according to Food & Wine Magazine.
Earlier this year, Food & Wine Magazine listed Vancouver’s Donut Nook as the best place to get doughnuts in Washington.
“The day it came out, we were super busy. We didn’t know why,” said Tracy Gray, who’s worked at the Donut Nook for nine years. Gray said she’s a newbie compared to other employees who have worked there for nearly two decades.
“Our boss treats us well,” she said.
For 45 years, Phil and Susan Pomeroy have sold raised doughnuts, cake doughnuts, bars, crullers, fritters and every other doughnut-like food imaginable from their shop.
Doughnuts are made on site daily from midnight until sometime between 8 and 11 a.m., depending on how many are needed for the day. Only the freshest doughnuts make it into the glass display case. Day-old leftovers are put in a special bin for a reduced price, donated to Recovery Cafe, and given to Veterans Affairs medical center volunteers every Tuesday and Thursday.
Longtime regulars like Bill Boyd and Rosalee Johnson come in for the doughnuts, coffee and company. On June 4, National Doughnut Day, Boyd was perched at the bar with a mug of coffee. The 84-year-old comes in pretty much every day between landscaping jobs. He’s been working in that business for 64 years and has many stories to tell about his clients and the history of the area. In a short conversation, he reminisced about the Vancouver shipyards.
While Boyd chatted with Phil Pomeroy, Johnson requested the doughnut she gets every other day, a cherry fritter, before heading to work.
“If they don’t have cherry, I get an apple, but that’s distressing,” she said with a laugh.
Gray was at the register, her doughnut earrings bobbing as she tried to cajole Johnson into playing hooky from work even though she knows Johnson runs Jack and Jill House child care and never neglects her duties.
Stepping into the Donut Nook is like gazing back into the 1970s. Stunning photos of the Pacific Northwest taken by owner Phil Pomeroy cover the wood-paneled walls. Warm greeting cards and fading photos of people in the shop are tacked on corkboard to the side of the doughnut bar.
The bar and wood tables were made by Pomeroy when he bought the place.
“I needed a job, so I bought one,” Pomeroy said, explaining how he got into the doughnut business. After two weeks of training by the previous owner, he took over the shop.
He said it took many years to build up the business. As he added customers, he increased the variety of doughnuts displayed in the glass case. The more recent additions are the popular fruit fritters ($1.85) with cherry, blueberry or apple, or fritters with both fruit and cream cheese ($2).
“I still eat the doughnuts every day,” Pomeroy said. “I like the cake type, the old-fashions.”
Every morning, regulars line up with new customers who keep finding this place.
Christina Baye, who recently moved from the Moses Lake area, lives around the corner. This was the fourth time she’s visited with her three small children. Her little ones sat on the deep brown couches as she waited to order.
As the line ebbed and flowed, Phil Pomeroy was doing what he has done for over four decades.
“I come in and hang out with the regulars, the old guys,’’ he said.
He appreciated the praise from Food & Wine Magazine but was focused on the important things — keeping his staff and customers happy.
“The shortest-term employee has been here for eight years. Most have been here for 20-plus years,” he said. “When they leave, I’m leaving too.”
It’s clear that Pomeroy has learned over the years that success lies in tending to the small things, like holding the last cherry fritter for a regular or hanging customers’ favorite mugs behind the counter.
A Norman Rockwell-esque ideal of America that some miss and others have never known lives on in this small shop every day.