“I would like a donut, please.”
“Me gustaría un donut, por favor.”
The word “donut,” just like the word “nerd,” can signify the same thing, respectively, whether in Spanish-speaking Chile or in the English-speaking United States. Either place, the former means a puffy ring of sweetened and fried dough and the latter may be a potentially awkward yet devoted person to specific interests.
This fun fact is well known by Annabel Figueroa and Andrew Underwood, co-founders and owners of Donerds Donuts. They even combined these common words to create self-proclaimed titles for themselves.
“We are the donut nerds,” Underwood said. “It’s the science of the perfect donut and coffee.”
This idea has inspired the name of what is now the couple’s chain store, Donerds Donuts.
They have owned a shop in Jim Thorpe for the past two and a half years but recently brought Donerds Donuts to the South Side after realizing there wasn’t a local spot offering the type of food and drink they could provide. This new second location is nestled near the corner of East Fourth Street and New Street — a block that was filled with city representatives and local patrons for the store’s opening day on Aug. 3.
“That was amazing,” Figueroa said. “(South Bethlehem) is a really nice community that (has) more young owners that can support each other. We can collaborate. It’s a good environment.”
Elsie Polites, a former baking and pastry student at Northampton Community College and now a barista at Donerds, said Figueroa and Underwood are “great” bosses.
“They’re super sweet people, super understanding,” Polites said. “Even with the little hiccups from opening a new place, it is running super smoothly.”
Figueroa said their business started in her home city of Santiago, Chile, less than a decade ago. They put into action their shared passion for owning a business and began practicing baking donuts, a product Underwood said was not widely available in their area at the time.
“We decided to make our own, because I wanted to eat some donuts!” Underwood said.
They were living near the beach at the time, so they whipped up a large batch, tasted a few and took the rest to sell to Chilean beachgoers.
He said the locals loved their soft, diversely designed confections.
Soon, they began selling more of their homemade creations on the streets of Santiago thanks to a recipe from Underwood’s grandfather and a 1981 Volkswagen bus converted to a food truck.
“People loved it so much,” Figueroa said. “Then we got a store and realized that we wanted to expand to Andrew’s country, the United States.”
They found the baking process for these treats is similar to a science project, hence their nerdy baking connotation.
“It’s like an experiment, especially with our donuts,” Figueroa said. “We’re always coming out with different flavors, and we are open to try an experiment.”
Underwood explained that yeast-raised donuts — the kind the Donerds produce — use fermented dough similar to sourdough, and the process speed depends on the seasonal weather.
He said the local climate patterns, depending on the time of year, forces them to change and adapt their recipe. The hotter and more humid it is, the quicker he said they have to be in their production process.
Pastry “scientists” is what Figueroa calls their pastry chefs, because, above all, the couple sees their work as a scientific process, including their coffee selections.
“We use the best coffee roaster we can find, Intelligentsia Coffee,” Underwood said. “You know, espresso is also an exacting science.”
Figueroa said they have a desire to continue experimenting with food and beverages at Donerds. They outsource gluten-free macarons and brought up the possibility of croissants joining the menu in the shop’s future.
Much of their motivation for experimenting with their products starts with research, like scrolling through social media for unique flavor inspirations. But, ideas have also stemmed from their own global experiences, such as visiting other states in the U.S. and exploring other countries in Southeast Asia and across Europe.
“We like to travel,” Figueroa said. “So we always kind of try to take inspirations of the culture of that country. We kind of wanted to bring different cultures in the donut industry.”
While the owners emphasize global thinking in their industry, Polites added that there is value in exploring more on a local level.
“I just think a lot more people should look into small businesses, especially like Donerds,” Polites said. “There are a lot of hidden gems like Donerds everywhere.”