Niagara residents have started to go nuts for doughnuts. More specifically, Beechwood Doughnuts.
This artsy little doughnut shop caters to Niagara’s industrious food culture. Their emphasis on freshness is on point and, what’s more, they have managed to make a snack everyone can enjoy; these fresh, creative, glazed goodies are vegan! By TNL contributor Carly McHugh.
Since opening in January of this year, the staff at Beechwood Doughnuts have seen the fruits of their labour sell out every day.
With Facebook, Instagram and Twitter buzzing with excitement over Beechwood and their freshly made doughnuts, The Niagara Local queued up, too, for a taste.
The shop’s door opened to release a lasting aroma of fresh confections. Robin’s egg blue walls are fresh and paired with elegant white trim. Themed creations from local artists display themselves along the wall, welcoming newly-inspired Beechwood fans to contribute – and already there are doughnuts EVERYWHERE!
While the shop was buzzing with customers and employees hard at work, General Manager and Culinary Team member Tayler Book was more than happy to share Beechwood’s story of success.
Before branching off to something strictly sweet, Tayler’s business partners Shane and Leah Belanger had previously worked at Rise Above – known throughout Niagara for its contemporary vegan dishes.
Doughnuts were available on the menu there since its opening on Summer Street in 2010. However, with the expansion of Rise Above and the move to its current location on St. Paul Street, focus shifted more towards its evolution as a restaurant.
“They weren’t really able to keep up with the doughnuts there, so they gave us their blessing and we went off and opened up Beechwood Doughnuts.”
Named after Beech Street in St. Catharines – the location of the house where they all met – Beechwood exudes a “homey” feel for its current employees, including those who lived in that particular house.
The desire to stay in the familiar, multi-faceted downtown core fuelled the search for a perfect location. When Tayler noticed James Street’s interior design company Simply White was closing its doors, she saw an opportunity.
“I felt weird about it because Simply White was so beautiful,” she said. “But I just like, lurked on it for months, and then finally it became available and we just jumped on it.”
Evidently, the hard work has paid off. Thousands of doughnuts have left Beechwood in the past few months, and the flavour options are in generous rotation. Blueberry Dip, Pistachio Glaze and Coconut Cream are among the flavours Beechwood has to offer. They’ve even put a vegan spin on old favourites like the Apple Fritter and the Dutchie.
Inspired by a Canadian-made treat, Tayler’s favourite combination is the Nanaimo doughnut, which has become part of the regular rotation at Beechwood; topped with coconut and cookie bits and stuffed with sinfully sweet filling, it does not disappoint.
“We’re just creative. We just like to come up with crazy things and bring them to life.”
Creativity definitely comes with the goal of making everything vegan-friendly, something Tayler and her team have used in both their work and personal lives, as all have been vegan for at least five years.
“Often you think, a lot of things, it’s really hard to veganize, but it’s not that hard.
They’ve actually done, like, coconut bacon – things like that. Anything you can think of can be made vegan. It just makes it that much more fun.”
Beechwood also strives to incorporate organic, local and fair-trade products. They receive a majority of their ingredients from Ontario Natural Food Co-op – and they’re certainly put to good use. According to Tayler, an average of around 1,500-2,000 doughnuts are made daily, by hand.
But it wasn’t always that many. On their first day, Tayler recalls making only 250 doughnuts before open and selling out in an hour. The blitz inspired the Beechwood crew to rethink their strategy.
“We closed up for four hours and we made 250 more and had to figure out how we’re going to be able to open without having to shut down and then re-open.”
Now, they invest an extensive amount of hours to ensure their doughnuts are picture perfect – and the few hundred Instagram tags are valid proof. At least six hours are put into the doughnuts before open, with continuous work in both the storefront and kitchen throughout the day.
But the customers are grateful, and the clientele is beyond anything Tayler expected.
“It’s an interesting mix. The majority of them are not vegan – a lot of people don’t know we’re vegan, and a lot of people will debate about whether we’re vegan or not.”
Regardless, locals can’t seem to get enough. Beechwood’s glass display counter meets the eyes of many Niagara residents throughout the day, and in these few months some have already found their favourites. This seemingly overnight success was unexpected, but Tayler is pleased with the speedy results.
“To be completely honest, we didn’t even expect this in five years. So, when everyone asks, ‘Oh, what are your plans for the next five years?’ It’s like, ‘Well, our business plan’s out the window now.’ You’ve got to start fresh.
We wanted to do cinnamon rolls, we wanted to do sandwiches – we were going to be a bakery at first. Thank goodness we weren’t, ‘cause we can hardly keep up with the doughnuts to begin with.”
But even sticking to doughnuts leaves room for experimentation and Tayler can’t wait to see the results of Beechwood’s next possible venture – cake doughnuts, to accompany the current yeast-risen ones.
Whatever plans Beechwood has for the future, Niagara locals and visitors will surely be lined up for more.
*For more pictures and a map to Beechwood’s downtown St. Catharines location click here.