Celebrating National Doughnut Day with Sweet Smuckers Donuts

The world has been enjoying treats that resemble the modern doughnut for centuries, but we’ve only had an official day to celebrate it since 1938. That’s when The Salvation Army of Chicago founded National Doughnut Day as a way to raise money for needy families suffering through the Great Depression and to honor the “doughnut lassies” of World War I, brave women who set up bakeries on European frontlines, sometimes frying dough in upturned metal helmets, to serve soldiers the baked snacks they missed from back home.

To commemorate National Doughnut Day 2016, we spoke with Andrew Smucker of Sweet Smuckers Donuts to get a professional opinion on why doughnuts are a perennial favorite and to discuss his strategy for bringing the fluffy, glazed manna to the people.

How did you get started with your food truck and why did you choose doughnuts?

I needed a new career and it looked like a fun thing to do. The main reason we did doughnuts is because I had a friend who was doing the same thing in the Tri-Cities area. He had been doing a lot of festivals and events like that, so we bought their recipe and he mentored me. We used a bit of a different model. Like I said, they do a lot of festivals and fairs, so they operate out of a tent most of the time, so we took it and transitioned it to a food truck and operate on weekdays. We do an occasional festival as well, but it’s more a normal food truck model. Doughnuts were just something no one else was doing in a food truck. It’s just a neat little niche for us. I’m a huge doughnut fan. I love to eat doughnuts, so making doughnuts is just natural for us.

How do you choose where to set up?

Typically, it’s just where people call and ask us to come. We’ll look at the calendar for this area and check out a few different events, but normally through the week it’s just businesses that ask us to set up. We’re at the same place every Wednesday and every Thursday. We’ve been at one for about a year and one about six months now. Both of those just started as businesses asking us to come set up. It’s been nice to keep that so that our customers know where we’re going to be. But other than that, we do have four different locations we’re at once a month and then the rest of the time is filled in with random businesses calling saying, “Hey, could you come set up?” Typically they’re looking to draw a little attention to them and it obviously benefits us as well.

One thing we often encounter when we’re talking to food truck operators is all the different rules that vary from place to place. Since you travel through so many different counties, do you have to contend with different regulations or has it been pretty smooth?

It’s been very smooth. So far I haven’t found a county that has any type of restriction. It’s just having a business license and a health permit. They’ll come check that occasionally to make sure everything’s good there. Most of our time is spent in Morristown (Tennessee), and that’s just a matter of getting a permit from the city. No big deal. It’s just them confirming that you have permission to set up and that you have the health license and the business license. Knoxville’s been a little different for us because they have the whole food truck program, but even that went very, very smoothly. It was just a matter of going through the steps and having it done. There’s nothing complicated, nothing difficult. It’s just a matter of getting it done and you’re good to go there.

What’s been the most challenging part for you, personally, in setting up your food truck?

Just the time factor. It kind of consumes my life right now. Other than that, we’ve been very, very blessed. From the get-go, we’ve had incredible support from our customers. And then one of the things I stressed about going into it was, “Where are we going to set up?” And that’s been completely unexpected to have so many people call. Right now my calendar is full, basically through July, and it just stays booked out about a month ahead right now. That’s just people calling and saying, “Hey, come set up,” whether that’s just for something special they have going on, or a lot of people just say, “We love your doughnuts, we’d love for our company to have them.” It’s just a way for us to get a little extra exposure and that’s just been the coolest thing – having people that actually want us to come set up for them.

What do you think it is about doughnuts that people just can’t resist?

It’s different. There’s nothing else quite like a doughnut. You have your fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth type of dough. The glaze is, in my opinion, the best part of a doughnut. You can add different types of toppings, but for us it’s just that combination of fluffy dough and that yummy, sweet glaze. It’s just irresistible.

Sweet Smuckers Donuts, a food truck based in Morristown, Tenn., is frequently spotted in Hamblen, Grainger, Jefferson, and Knox counties, and at numerous events around the area. If you’re in East Tennessee and want to find out when they’ll be near you, visit their Facebook page.

Tanner West
Tanner West

A dedicated festival-goer, Tanner West has seen more bands perform live in the middle of hay fields and city parks than most people have probably heard of. Raised on beans and taters, he recently renovated a home and three vintage sheds in the back woods of East Tennessee that serves as a quiet retreat for reading and ready base for hiking and camping trips. Despite being able to craft 500-word descriptions of restaurant equipment, Tanner is a man of few words who described the best meal he ever ate in one word: Coffee.