Joseph Pack/Mustang News

Besides unique doughnut flavors, SLO Donut Co. offers a comfortable ambiance, quality study space and friendly employees.

Kelly Trom
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When Jacob and Jessie Pickering set out to open a doughnut shop, they knew they wanted to do things differently. Jessie’s family had been in the doughnut business for quite some time, but she didn’t want to follow in her family’s footsteps exactly.

The young couple, who originally met in a doughnut shop, toured doughnut shops around the area. They made a list of the things they wanted to do differently once they had their own.

“Most doughnut shops are really small hole-in-the-wall places and they are all the same,” Jacob said. “They have the same cabinets, the same decor, the same environment and the same kind of service.”

They added fluorescent lights, bad customer service and crowded seating to the laundry list of things they didn’t like about the other places. When they found the lot in the Foothill Plaza Shopping Center, they knew it was where they wanted to start their business, SLO Donut Co.

With Jessie’s knowledge of the doughnut business and Jacob’s background in construction, they transformed the empty building into their dream modern doughnut store.

“It was big enough where we could actually do what we wanted, to create a space like no other doughnut shop,” he said.

They even welcomed Cal Poly engineering students to do a study on the ways they could maximize the space.

Ample seating, big tables — so students can spread out their textbooks — free Wi-Fi and power outlets make SLO Donut Co. an excellent study spot. At the same time, it also can be a place for students to socialize and play the board games located in the back of the store.

English senior David Llamas goes to SLO Donut Co. every few weeks for the relaxing environment and the boysenberry and cream cheese pillow doughnut.

“I go for doughnuts, socializing and friends,” Llamas said. “I like the atmosphere; you can see all the doughnuts and there is plenty of seating, so you feel welcome.”

SLO Donut Co. features many fun, nontraditional doughnut flavors inspired by breakfast cereals, seasonal pies and unexpected combinations. The Pickerings search the Internet daily for new ideas.

“You got to be open minded to that because you never know what people like,” Jacob said. “We had an avocado doughnut for a little while. You would have thought that was the grossest thing in the world, but people loved it.”

Employees also contribute to new flavor ideas. If they work out, they might even get the doughnut named after them. But employees aren’t only valued for their creative doughnut genius.

“Our employees are the front line to our customers and our goal is to make sure they don’t lose their identity,” Jacob said. “We let them wear whatever they want. We hire them because they are the person they are. We just want to make sure it is a fun place.”

Employee and Cuesta College student Mike Antenucci has been working at SLO Donut Co. for approximately eight months and described it as one of the “chillest” jobs he has ever had.

“I have worked in customer service before and it’s snappy parents and disrespectful kids — but not here,” Antenucci said. “It is a nice environment. And also, the employees I work with are fantastic.”

One of the main perks of the job? Getting to interact with customers in fun ways.

“Every once in awhile, probably like twice a week, we do contests,” Antenucci said. “I have done staring contests with customers before for a free doughnut.”

Contests aside, business has only increased since the grand opening in October 2010.

“A lot of businesses have that grand opening and they slowly work up their sales and by that fourth or fifth year they are kind of maxed out, “ Jacob said. “We haven’t really flat-lined yet so we don’t know what our capacity is.”

The original doughnut lineup has stayed relatively consistent in the past three years, but the doughnut shop has acquired a new point of sale system with an iPad checkout station.

“We notice that people don’t like standing (in) line, especially for a small-ticket item,” he said. “We are trying to speed up that process as fast as we can, at the same time not losing our personal relationship with our customer.”

Their formula — more modern amenities, spacious seating and top-notch customer service — seems to be working and improving. Maybe it was fate when Jacob and Jessie met in that doughnut shop.

“We started at a doughnut shop and we are going to end at a doughnut shop,” Jacob said.

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