If youre going to have a war, it may as well be over doughnuts
The owners of two Tualatin businesses insist there's enough room in this town for a pair of maple bar makers
Phet Phongsavanh came to Oregon from Laos as a teenager. He graduated from Cleveland High School and enrolled at Portland Community College.
After class, he'd drive to Tualatin and help his aunt in the doughnut store she'd opened in 1989. At the time, Donut King was the only shop on Southwest Boones Ferry Road specializing in chewy, sugary treats to have with one's morning coffee.
Phongsavanh took over ownership of the store in 2000, the same year Doughnut Land moved into a space right across the street that had previously been occupied by a pizza joint.
For nearly 11 years, the two shops - which peddle nearly identical products to Tualatin's doughnut-consuming crowds - have co-existed a stone's throw away from each other. And depending on which of their proprietors you ask, the relationship is either a bit frosty or sprinkled with friendly efforts at cross-marketing.
'It's a competition - yes, I'd say so,' said Phongsavanh, who typically rises in the middle of the night to come down to 19403 S.W. Boones Ferry Road to begin making each day's doughnuts at 2 a.m. 'We've been here since 1989, and he moved here in 2000.
'I'm not upset that he opened the store,' said Phongsavanh of Doughnut Land owner George Wardini. 'But why not a mile away, or a half-mile away?'
'A good place to be'
For his part, Wardini, a Tigard resident, says the location of his business was pure happenstance.
'I was driving along and saw a space with a 'for lease' sign in the window,' noted Wardini, who's celebrating his 11-year anniversary at 19350 S.W. Boones Ferry Road in Tualatin this month. 'It looked like a good place to be, so here we are.'
Before the recession hit three years ago, business was brisk at Doughnut Land, Wardini said, where the top seller is the maple bar. 'We typically make 14 dozen a day,' he noted.
It's been a bit of a stretch since 2008, but the business is making it because of a loyal customer base Wardini has built by giving folks what they want - raised, glazed and twist doughnuts - and by throwing in some innovation as well.
Besides a fresh pot of coffee to go with his delicacies, Wardini, who previously worked for chain doughnut maker Winchell's, has experimented with scones and Mexican pastries. The latter didn't sell very well, so he's returned to delectable staples which, even in a tight economy, fly out the door on a regular basis.
He sells to individuals as well as to wholesalers, keeping his margins up by baking in large quantities. Doughnut Land, which will introduce a Danish pastry to its clientele this spring, employs nine workers.
For Wardini, who's at the store seven days a week, making a living requires constant vigilance.
'It's been kind of flat over the last couple of years,' Wardini admitted. 'It's as stressful as any business, with ups and downs. We're surviving, though.'
Trying to make a living
Across the street at Donut King, Phongsavanh, too, is trying various ways to lure more people into his shop. With apple fritters and maple bars as his go-to treats, he's seeing success with 'all kinds' of doughnuts that remain in demand despite the teetering economy.
'In the last year we lost a little business because some of our regular customers lost their jobs,' Phongsavanh said. 'But now I see that some of them are getting hired, and they're coming in again.'
Phongsavanh said working at a doughnut store suits him because he's 'always liked to work with people' and would rather have his own gig than work for somebody else. And although he's never met Wardini face-to-face, he figures him to be a nice - and fair - guy.
'I'm not upset about George,' said Phongsavanh. 'Doughnut Land hasn't been an enemy. We're both only trying to make a living, so what's the point?'
With teenagers of his own attending Tualatin High School these days, Phongsavanh said he tries to adopt a live-and-let-live attitude when it comes to the other doughnut store in town.
'If people prefer Donut King, that's good,' he said. 'But if they go to Doughnut Land, that's their choice.'
The hole story
> Donut King has been in business at 19403 S.W. Boones Ferry Road in Tualatin since 1989. Its top sellers are maple bars and apple fritters. Reach the store at 503-692-8011.
> Doughnut Land has been in business at 19350 S.W. Boones Ferry Road in Tualatin since 2000. The maple bar is its top seller. Reach the store at 503-885-8641.