All it took was one sample doughnut to hook Tom O’Donnell.
He immediately bought a dozen of the mini-doughnuts from Tracey Gatdula’s Glazey Days Donuts at Brumwell’s Flea Market, located at 4013 Mountain Road in Pasadena.
“Then, I bought a dozen more, and I’ll probably be back and buy some more,” said O’Donnell, an Elkridge resident who tried his first mini-doughnut three weeks ago. “They’ve got a good taste. They actually taste better than Dunkin' Donuts.”
It’s that kind of feedback Gatdula, a Pasadena resident who started his business about a month ago with his wife, Diane, said he depends upon. Besides Brumwell’s, they also sell at events.
The line outside the yellow tent emblazoned with the “Glazey Days Donuts” sign was steady Saturday morning. But it wasn’t busy enough for Gatdula.
How much busier is a busy morning?
“Oh, this is nothing. Nothing,” he said, before turning to O’Donnell, who had just approached. “How you doing? Back again?”
After preparing his order, Gatdula told him, “Thank you, sir. We really appreciate your business.”
Gatdula is personable, chatting with customers during the few slow moments and asking them to repeat their orders during the busier ones. A former retail manager for 25 years, he learned the secrets of doughnut making working for four years for a previous employer he declined to identify because he recently was laid off, due to a downsizing.
After not being able to find work for seven months, Gatdula and his family decided forming their own business was the way to go, he said, adding the startup costs weren’t much because he doesn’t have an actual storefront. The money went toward supplies, lawyer’s fees to obtain a Limited Liability Company license and county inspections.
“I understand customer service. If the customer doesn’t like the product, I won’t make it,” he said. “My previous employer wanted to make doughnuts, so I learned to make the doughnuts.”
Those were full-size doughnuts, but Gatdula said there isn’t much difference in method for making his miniatures. The preparation is about the same, but the cooking time in his fryer is less.
He also doesn’t have any idea how many pounds of batter he goes through in a shift.
“You know, I haven’t even figured that out yet,” he said.
After the small blob of dough is dropped into the oil, it floats for a few minutes, then moves down to an arm that lifts it up, drains it and drops it into a pan with other doughnuts awaiting powdered or cinnamon sugars or other toppings.
What kind of toppings? Those change periodically, Gatdula said, so he can keep offering new choices, all homemade. Saturday’s included "Death by Chocolate," featuring three kinds of chocolate; maple bacon, which many described as tasting like a pancake with bacon on it; Reese’s, featuring melted peanut butter and chocolate chunks; vanilla with sprinkles; strawberry shortcake and cinnamon apple—both made with fruit compotes.
His best seller, surprisingly, isn’t one of the more calorie-laden sugar rushes, he said. The best seller is “cinnamon sugar, our base flavor,” he said. The second most popular? Death by Chocolate.
New customer Tom Brown of Pasadena said the cinnamon apple won him over.
“I like it. Good stuff,” he said. “The price was right too. I thought that was apple compote.”
Gatdula said the ratio of first-time and repeat customers is about even.
Jose Nichols and Jessica Sisson of Pasadena were among the latter. The fact that the doughnuts are homemade and the Gatdulas are local residents appeals to Sisson, she said.
“To be honest, I don’t even eat doughnuts, but I eat these every week they’re here. If they had a store, I’d go,” Nichols said, adding the strawberry shortcake is his favorite. “I usually come in the morning and get one (order) and then get another one before I leave.”
Nichols probably will have to keep coming to Brumwell’s for his Glazey Days fix. Gatdula has no plans to open a store, he said.
“I don’t want to deal with rent, and this is a good mix of people,” he said.
For Brumwell’s, it’s as good a match, said Bonnie Hoyas, co-owner whose father started the flea market in 1986.
“We wanted to increase the food vendors and variety and improve the flea market,” she said, adding she also enjoys the doughnuts. “They’re very good, they’re unique and something we’ve never had.”
The Gatdulas like Brumwell’s, he told customers. If they don’t see him, it’s because he’s at an event, like the one he will attend this weekend in southern Maryland.
“We like it here. We’re local residents, so this is our home base,” Gatdula said.