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Updated: February 2, 2022

Holy Donut makes 'gut-wrenching' decision to close Auburn store

people standing in front of gray building Courtesy / LA Metro Chamber Last year, employees and local officials celebrated the opening of the Holy Donut in Auburn. The branch will close this month.

A year after expanding to Auburn, the Holy Donut has decided to leave because of slower-than-expected business at that location, the Portland-based maker and seller of Maine potato donuts announced Wednesday.

The store, located at 848 Minot Ave., employs 13 people, opened in early January last year and held a ribbon-cutting in April

"The timing just wasn't right for our entry into the Auburn market," Jeff Buckwalter, the company's CEO and co-owner, said in a news release. "The city rolled out the red carpet for us, and we're very grateful for their support. But since we're not where we expected we would be by now, we simply can't justify keeping the storefront open.”

Buckwalter told Mainebiz that while the plan is to stay open in Auburn until Feb. 15 to give employees time to find other jobs, the situation is "fluid" and the closing could happen sooner.

In a Tuesday phone interview ahead of the announcement, Buckwalter said that while the company had no choice but to close in Auburn, the decision to pull back was a difficult one.

File photo / courtesy, Holy Donut
Holy Donut CEO and co-owner Jeff Buckwalter

"It was gut-wrenching," he said. "Nothing is worse than having to make a decision like this, which is going to have an impact on our teammates ... These are decisions you sometimes have to make when you're leading a company, but it doesn't make them enjoyable at all."

He said that the general manager and assistant general manager in Auburn had accepted offers to take management positions in other Holy Donut locations.

"At the end of the day everything is falling in place as well as it can as we look forward to the future," he added.

The Auburn store is in a leased space, in a former Tim Horton's that had been vacant for five years before the Holy Donut moved in.

Buckwalter told Mainebiz that the company is working with a couple of different possible sublessees on the Auburn property.

Besides its original Park Avenue shop in Portland, which opened in 2012, Holy Donut has a drive-thru on U.S. Route 1 in Scarborough and its newest location, at 177 Commercial St., in Portland. The Commercial Street shop, in what had been Bill's Pizza, put the company back in the Old Port last year after leaving Exchange Street in 2020.

Arundel plan

The company said that business at those three locations is meeting expectations. Meanwhile, Holy Donut is proceeding with plans to open a so-called campus in Arundel in late spring or summer, featuring a small walk-up and drive-thru retail shop along with a small office building and a facility for product research. The new space is envisioned to support Holy Donut's current production needs and allow for scalability with future growth.

"Our Scarborough location is at maximum capacity," Buckwalter said. "During the pandemic, we had to convert the dining room to a production space. It will be great to give our guests their dining room back in Scarborough."

The Holy Donut employs 100 people in total, and Buckwalter said the company is working with employees in Auburn to help them with their transition plans, whether inside or outside the company.

"Nothing is more important to us right now than that," he said.

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