More Than Just a Donut, by Heather Bugni

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While sitting in the packed lobby observing all the customers it was clear that they were all enjoying their time, by the smiles on their faces covered in all the different icings. Being on the other side of the counter was a different kind of experience. One that I hadn’t had in a very long time. I could feel the excitement as they watched their donuts being thrown into the icing, and I could smell the fresh made donuts much more clearly! Even though I had been in here practically a thousand times, something about watching the small toddler dancing to some Lady Gaga with a donut in her hands made it feel like a completely different place for me. I had always heard about how special Benny’s is, once I was hired at Benny’s I almost forgot it was in fact special. After observing all the well satisfied customers it became even more clear that going to Benny’s truly is a special experience.

Recently donut shops have started to become extremely popular in the United States, and Benny Augeri has clearly made his mark on this donut movement. Benny’s really has been a really special place from the very beginning, and it’s growth really is what sets it apart from other donut shops. Benny’s Donuts started just as a donut delivery service, with no primary location. It was no more than a young man experimenting with different icings out of his garage. It started as just a small idea in a class at Oregon State and grew into an extremely successful business. Once he started receiving support from classmates and his professors, Benny went from making donuts in his sweats out in a garage to a full blown professional entrepreneur. Funny enough, the Benny’s Donut that exists today wasn’t even how he had imagined his business. Originally Benny had planned on connecting with the younger inhabitants of Corvallis, but ended up creating a space that was family friendly and safe for anyone in the community to relax, eat a hot and fresh donut, and sip on some delicious coffee. Besides the fact that the donuts here are delicious, Benny’s has ended up representing so much more than a tasty little treat. It represents the very thing that makes Corvallis such a special place, which is the community. Benny has successfully created an atmosphere that is warm and safe, but also unique and exciting (speaking from personal experience).

The moment you walk into Benny’s Donuts it is very clear that the number one priority is the community that it serves. When I sat to the side and observed all of the customers, I noticed that it was always filled with crowds of diverse people. There were people of all ages, race, and sexuality that came in and enjoyed the welcoming energy. This day in particular was particularly special to watch, because it was the day before thanksgiving. Corvallis is a festive place when the holidays are in season, but can also be a sad time for the people in the community who don’t have the opportunity to go home. Students who live across the country especially have a hard time. On this day I witnessed groups of friends who weren’t able to go home gather up and spend time together, which was truly a special sight to see.

After talking with Benny I got a better understanding of how he feels about his business, and what inspires him to create such a safe environment for everyone in Corvallis. “We as a company are inviting people of all types for employment and customer. We only care that you love donuts. I believe the world is polarized in many ways but none of that matters here. We will never alienate any group of people here. It may seem retro and trendy, but none of that actually matters. It’s all about the community.” I was able to witness the inclusiveness that he so proudly stands for. Benny continually shows the people of Corvallis that they are his number one priority.

One important aspect about the community that affects Benny’s Donuts, is the university. One common misconception about this donut shop, is that people think it is named after Benny the Beaver. Although this is obviously extremely far from the truth, the university has played a key role in the creation and the growth of the shop. The original concept of his business was created through a business class, but he has found that Oregon State University still has a huge influence on his business. Most people assume that a college town like Corvallis has a lot of kids who only want to party, and honestly they aren’t wrong. As he’s transitioned from being a college student himself to a business owner, Benny very clearly sees the connection that the college students bring to small businesses like his that he had never really seen before. ”There is a very fragile line between the community and osu. There is a gap within the community because of the “party” atmosphere, but the fact that they are supporting local businesses helps bridge that gap.” Transitioning from a young student to a young entrepreneur has given him perspective, and made him realize all the different connections throughout the entire Corvallis community. This newly found perspective is the driving factor that inspires him to create a safe place for anyone that chooses to walk into his shop.

Another thing that makes Benny’s Donuts so unique is gluten free vegan option. Each week there are different flavors of donuts for those with dietary restrictions who are able to enjoy a sweet treat! Believe it or not, these donuts are actually incredible! There are people who drive from all over to get a taste of these infamous options. The crazy thing about these donuts is that it isn’t even the taste that makes them so extraordinary it is the love and care that goes into them. One of the top concerns of this donut shop, are that these donuts do not contain any traces of gluten or animal products. In order to create this safe and caring space, the employees use extreme care to not have any cross contamination. This means that the donuts are created in a completely separate areas, and the employees change their gloves whenever touching any ingredients in the kitchen that contain gluten. The extra attention that goes into these donuts, is very clear to the people who need these special requirements.

How does Benny’s Donuts actually work? A question that explains the puzzled faces that walk through the door. Basically, you walk about to the little glass wall and approach a donut bar where you can customize your very own donut with whatever glaze you want, and as many toppings as your heart (or stomach?) desires. The fun thing about the donut-making process is that you can make it however you want. Like it simple? Benny’s has a whole list of classic favorites, like the classic vanilla glaze. Like trying new foods? Try Benny Augeri’s personal favorite, the lemon lavender black pepper donut! In the interview with Benny, when discussing his favorite donut, it was clear that he felt extremely sentimental about this unique treat! “The lemon lavender donut HAS to be my favorite donut, because it was the first one that I created when I was experimenting in my garage. We accidentally spilled black pepper and it ended up being a perfect combination.” Although it might have been an accident, the lemon lavender black pepper donut is now one of the most popular flavors that people come from all over to have a taste of.

When people set foot in this place, they expect it to be just like any other donut shop. But when leaving they know that it is an experience that is truly unique. Even though pepper, Rosemary, and salt may be unique ingredients to put on a sweet treat like a donut, what is truly unique is the amazing qualities that the business, the owner, and the employees have. They all have one goal in mind when providing service, and that is to give a pleasant experience for everyone who walks through the doors. Everything about this place has been carefully thought out to ensure that everyone has a place here. From the very beginning of Benny’s Donut’s journey, the people is what has mattered and that has something that has made this place so important to everyone in Corvallis, Oregon.

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