The Donut GroVe is opening a shop in Orono this summer. Credit: Courtesy of Tiffany Harris

A doughnut business that quickly gained popularity for its vegan offerings and unique flavors at a Bangor farmers market will open a storefront in Orono later this summer.

The Donut Grove began as an idea in the summer of 2020 when four friends were searching for a creative outlet during the COVID-19 pandemic. They settled on Tiffany Harris’ vegan doughnuts, which were well-liked among her loved ones and gave the group a chance to be inventive in the kitchen.

They made the doughnuts in a commercial kitchen space and sold them at Bangor’s European Market, where they sold out nearly every week, starting in January 2021. Later, the business had storefront space at Fork & Spoon in Bangor, which closed about two years ago and forced them to find another kitchen in Brewer.

The two women who have continued the project, Harris and Tracy Vassiliev, see doughnut-making as a respite from their demanding full-time jobs, so they decided to expand. The Donut Grove, which has mostly paused business since October of last year to find and renovate a brick-and-mortar location, will open its storefront in late August or early September.

The Donut GroVe, which quickly gained popularity for its unique flavors at a Bangor farmers market in 2021, will open a storefront in Orono later this summer. Credit: Courtesy of Tiffany Harris

“It felt like a natural next step,” Harris said. “We were making doughnuts and couldn’t find a permanent kitchen, so we had to move forward somehow or stop. We weren’t willing to end it because this is something we really believe in.”

The Donut Grove will be at 153 Park St., Suite B, in Orono. The space is home to The Local, a small market that opened last year as a modernized version of the Orono Thriftway Food Center, which was a staple among locals and college students for years.

Harris and Vassiliev, who live in Bangor, will initially run the shop on the weekend and accept custom orders, but their hope is to hire a team to expand hours.

From building a commercial kitchen from scratch to navigating building codes, opening a storefront has been challenging for Harris, a nurse at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, and Vassiliev, a middle-school science teacher at James F. Doughty School.

The space is small, but fresh paint and custom touches make it quaint, said Harris, who is vegan. It represents “our brand and what we want to put forth,” she said.

“[Expanding] is probably one of the scariest things we’ve done,” Vassiliev said. “The learning curve was steep for us because we have totally different professions.”

The Donut GroVe is opening a shop in Orono this summer. Credit: Courtesy of Tiffany Harris

But developing recipes and making sweet treats is cathartic, and because their product is doughnuts, patrons are always happy to see them, she said.

The doughnuts, which come in cake and yeast varieties, are made primarily with locally sourced and organic ingredients. Favorite flavors include Gram’s Molasses, Peanut Butter Fudge, Lemon Creme and The County, which is a potato doughnut with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Harris and Vassiliev use homemade preserves for their filled doughnuts, such as Raspberry Creme and Strawberry Shortcake. They also offer glazed treats, with vanilla, blueberry, hibiscus and other flavors.

Harris, who has always wanted to own a bakery, enjoys cooking for her loved ones. Sometimes they’re surprised that vegan dishes can taste just as good or better than the non-vegan versions, she said.

“People don’t know that they’re eating a vegan doughnut,” she said. “They just think they’re eating a really good doughnut.”