Published Date Written by Natalie LaddThe selection isn't huge nor is the dining room large. The drink menu is simple and straightforward and has no call for a seasoned barista to steam or spoon elaborately prepared hot beverages. The precision branding clings to the past on all signage and marketing materials, with a feel-good retro font proudly pointing out that Frosty's Donuts has been providing Maine with famous, hand-cut donuts since 1965. Since then, the path that led to the recent opening of the third Frosty's Donuts just over the bridge in South Portland is made up of the stuff we Mainer's love.
The original shop on Maine Street in Brunswick was owned and operated by Bob and June Frost for over 45 years. Opening at 4 a.m., it was legendary with locals and Bowdoin College students long before corporate chains moved in and the markets became "super" enough to bake off their own frozen version of a donut originally made in a commissary far, far away. When June died in 2011, Bob closed for a short while until the husband and wife team of Nels Omdal and Shelby St. Andre bought the shop, and expanded to Freeport.
Enter yet the third husband and wife team of Haj and Keyla Carr, who partnered with Omdal and St. Andre to open the South Portland location earlier this month. More than business partners, the two couples are dear friends, involved in the lives of each others' children and sharing a love of community, as well as working toward the common goal of making the newest upstart a success.
For most, pairing up with friends in business ventures has the potential volatility to destroy even the strongest of bonds.
Agreeing, Keyla Carr said, "Nels and Shelby had many people approach them to partner up and open a Frosty's, but they know what kind of business minds we have and there was no hesitation on their part. But just being friends isn't enough, they needed to know their brand is in good hands." All four of the partners are committed to using local products and vendors. Down East Food Distributors was chosen over nationally known SYSCO, Wicked Joe's (also originating in Brunswick) has developed a medium roast Frosty's Brand coffee, and the milk comes from Oakhurst Dairy.
When she's not at her makeshift milk crate and file cabinet desk, hands-on proprietor, Carr is behind the counter greeting customers, checking product quality and marveling at how much fun she's having. "This is such a great experience. People are happy to see us, and to be here when they walk in and we're seeing repeat business. One gentleman came in and said, 'I've been eating Frosty's Donuts since before you were born and this is amazing. Other people have said, 'Oh My God! this is just like Brunswick.'" This comes as no surprise to Carr, whose staff trained for four months prior to opening, ensuring the donuts are made exactly like they were back in the day.
While not a stranger to food (Carr has been a serious baker since she was 10, ran a food blog with her sister, and did vegetarian food seminars), she and her husband graduated as college sweethearts, married and worked at jobs that "paid the bills, doing what we had to do," while taking care of a baby. "I told him back then that as soon as we can, I want to start doing something I love, something with food for a living," Carr said. "Haj started working and I have to give him a lot of credit because he has great business sense and we have another Maine based company, which we also really love."
The "baby" is now 12 years old and has been joined by two brothers and a new little sister. Business is steadily picking up and although she's as busy as she's ever been, Keyla Carr looks back at the past few weeks and says, "I wake up everyday with a smile on my face."
The Down Low: Check out frostysdonuts.com for a look at the locations (the new South Portland location has a drive-thru) and menu, which currently features pumpkin spice and apple crisp. My preference is the old school, glazed twist which has been the hallmark since the '60s. Strictly vegetarian, Carr is quick to say the donuts are fried in clean vegetable oil, rather than lard, which can be found at other donut shops and bakeries in the Greater Portland area.
The food court at One City Center and The Public Market House on Monument Square are havens for Portland High School kids who have open-campus and are happy to escape for lunch. With less than half an hour to eat and be back at school, many of the restaurants in the two locations offer quickly served lunches for short money. The best bang for the buck? Kamasouptra's $5 Student Meal Deal which includes a cup of soup with freshly baked bread, hand-squeezed lemonade or local soda and a pumpkin or chocolate cream whoopie pie. Will someone please tell me how I can get a fake Portland High School I.D.?