Barb, along with her husband, Marv “The Donut Man,” opened the Greenbush Bakery in Madison, WI in 1996. Although she doesn’t eat the donuts often, her favorite is the double chocolate cake donut.
Failure was never an option for Marv and I. Opening the Greenbush Bakery in 1996 represented a complete career change for my husband. In the early years of the bakery, Marv spent nearly every day learning, creating, and perfecting the donuts people now know and love. During this time, I was still working as a nurse so I helped with the new business on my days off and the weekends. The early years were not easy and that has been the hardest part about owning our own business. We have the freedom to succeed or fail and it is up to us to decide which path we want to take.
Marv and I didn’t come from a long line of bakers. We would do normal baking with our families but we had never made donuts before owning a donut shop. Marv got his training on the job from a worker who was a part of the business that was previously in Greenbush’s spot. The days were long and I can’t tell you how many times Marv fell asleep here with a bag of flour as a pillow. All the equipment we started with was in need of some repair or complete replacement, neither option being a cheap one.
Marv has been many different things in the past from a jet mechanic to an insurance salesman and is quite the handy man. He can fix a lot, but for the more difficult repairs, he’s done his research and we have several manufacturers on file to call if we need to. Although this was just the beginning of Greenbush, we knew we were heading towards the path to success.
In 1998, we were approached by the Jewish community to become a kosher certified kitchen. We were excited about this opportunity that came knocking on our door and gladly welcomed the challenge of getting such a prestigious certification. This process involved the rabbi inspecting and checking over the entire kitchen. Anything and everything going into the making of our products had to be kosher. The rolling table was sanded, all the utensils and cookware that touched the donuts had to be boiled for 45 minutes, our ingredients had to be kosher, and all packaging, pan liners, and cleaners had to follow kosher guidelines. We’ve been recertified every year since and like the Donut Man always says, “Kosher Means Quality.” The standards are set high to receive this certification and we could not be more proud of it.
Our staff has not changed much throughout the years, however, we do hire the college kids to work the counter and they vary throughout the years. We have had nursing students, engineers, and teachers all work here and we are flexible enough to work with their schedules. We absolutely love working with the students, we have even been invited to some weddings! Despite most of our employees graduating and moving on, some of our full timers have graduated and decided to stick around here at Greenbush. A goal that we have always had is that we not only have a smiling staff—but no matter what the circumstances are, our customers leave with a smile. On the bottom of the printed list of duties for the staff it says, “A smile is contagious, have fun!” which helps keeps our goal in all of our minds.
We love the customers. We have students at all hours of the day. We have church people, we have families, we have working people. We see people from all walks of life but I especially enjoy the families with their little kids. They’ll come in on Sundays in their pajamas because they ask to come get donuts first thing after waking up in the morning. We’ve had customers during alumni day or homecoming that come in and tell us how our donuts got them through all their finals. In fact, this morning I ran into a man who was one of our first customers and it was great. You don’t just forget what opening day felt like and the first customers who come through the door.
At Greenbush we only sell donuts and the reason for that is said best by the Donut Man, “You can’t be everything to everyone”. It’s very important that we stick to one item and don’t dilute our margins because if you try to get to big, it gets difficult to please everyone. With that being said, we still have forty plus different flavors, kinds, and fillings. We’ve specialized certain recipes to help create the wide variety we have. Marv learned how to make donuts on the job training so he was really just thrown into it. There is a lot of mixing, fixing and tasting that goes into specializing the recipes.
As for inspiration for the different flavors? Well, as Marv would say, “Make things of yesteryear.” We’ve gotten a lot of suggestions throughout the years, we’ve worked on them, and now that’s what we have. It’s fun to see what the guys come up with and try out. When we make the new flavors, we make sure that the recipe is exactly how it should be. Consistency is not only important for us, but especially to our customers. That’s one reason we make our whole variety of donuts everyday. Another reason is that we do wholesale to several different outlets like Willy St. Co-op, Metcalfe’s, and many churches on Sunday mornings. We’ve streamlined our wholesale accounts throughout the years because for us to do business with them, they have to be worth it. We do deliveries most days and the donuts that we send out are always baked fresh. We don’t want our product going out, being pushed to the back of a shelf, expiring and then our customers not getting the donuts the way we intended for them to.
We do a lot with the community. We donate to many different groups, some examples being the Special Olympics and the Luke House. Donating to these groups is absolutely awesome. Some days we bring what donuts we have left over to The Luke House or The Port, a part of the St.Vincent de Paul Society, and you just see people’s eyes light up when you walk into the room. I have taken my college grandson and nephew during the Christmas vacation to do special deliveries for The Luke House and The Port and people are so appreciative of what we bring. The happiness that comes from all of that is really what this is all about.
When we started, we were very small. Now? We’re huge. We have our shop; we do wholesale to several outlets, deliver to many churches on Sunday mornings. Our website just launched a few months ago. We have a new delivery truck and we give back to the community whenever we get the chance. We even have a few aprons in the time capsule at the Overture Center for people in the future to open in however many years. It wasn’t easy getting to where we are and we couldn’t be more grateful for the staff and customers we have. Marv and I do a lot of thanking because we have great people here and we are very proud of them. As far as opening another store goes, it is talked about all the time and thought about constantly.
— Caroline Krolicki