The Washboard Donut Shop is a staple in Tupper Lake, and has been for over 25 years now. The Shenandoah Indian Art & Crafts store, The Laundromat, and The Donut Shop have been located on Park Street (yes, in the same building) since 1990, when the owner bought the building.
Now, 28 years later, the original owner's daughter Tina runs the business trifecta. There are many unique aspects about this building that people love. Whether it's the three businesses in one, the horses on the roof (I’ll get into that later), or the fact that homemade donuts are still made on site every day, people come back to visit every year. I had the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the donut making, and to ask some other questions that I had about the business.
The Shenandoah gift store
Bought in 1990, the owners found they had some extra space in the building after setting up the laundromat and the donut shop. The owner, being Native American, decided to open up a gift shop in 1991 in the extra space of the store to sell Native souvenirs. He realized this limited merchandise was not going to sell much, so eventually he added Adirondack souvenirs to the store. Now if you go in you will see handmade chandeliers and other items that he still makes himself to sell.
The tale of two horses
I have lived in Tupper Lake my whole life, and have grown accustomed to the fact that there were always two horses on top of The Donut Shop. I never asked why because it just seemed normal, growing up and seeing the horses everyday. Actually, I have gotten so used to the horses being there I do not even recognize them anymore. Turns out the horses came from The Great Escape, where they used to be used as a decoration at the entry to the park. They were given to the owner of The Donut Shop years ago (before I was born) and have been on the roof ever since. They get painted regularly to keep up their good looks.
The best part about having the horses on the roof is they make for easy direction giving. “On the right hand side of Park Street, the building with the two horses on the roof.” Yup, that’s The Donut Shop.
My favorite part. Having The Donut Shop right down the road from my office is not good…or is it? The donuts are always calling my name, and I end up stopping in once in awhile to get one.
I had the chance to see Tina make a batch this morning. She started by putting the dry mix into the mixing bowl, and followed that with water. She said there is nothing too special about the dough; she has tried multiple recipes to find the one that comes out the best. “The uniqueness isn't in our dough, it’s the fact that we still make homemade donuts here every day and people love to come in and watch.” She used an awesome tool that saved a lot of work and mess. It pushed out perfect donut rings, right into the oil for her. It was very interesting to see.
Her dough may not be top secret, but when it comes to frostings she doesn't joke around. All of the frostings are homemade from a vanilla base. One of the most popular ones, the maple frosting, has a secret ingredient that Tina would not give out (and no, it isn't maple syrup). This maple frosting is what makes the signature maple bacon donut so delectable. It is turning into one of the most popular donuts sold.
Watching Tina make the donuts took me back to my grandma's kitchen when I was a little girl, and she used to make homemade donuts for all of her grandchildren. I think this has to do with why I stop in to buy donuts at The Donut Shop — every time I bite into one it takes me right back to spending time with my grandmother and cousins during my childhood.
“I think the key is you have to stay open. Seven days a week, during the slow times, during the steady times, you have to stay open,” Tina said. By doing just this Tina has built a legacy on Park Street that people seek out when they are in town. Or maybe it’s the smell of freshly made donuts coming down the street that draws people in through the doors. Either way, I can guarantee there will be donuts in my future.
In town and need to do laundry, pick up some souvenirs, and try the donuts? One-stop shopping at The Washboard. Check it out. And don't forget — after you've had your fill of donuts there are plenty of shops, restaurants, and a great craft brewery in Tupper Lake!