It's high season at Zuckerbakers, as the pumpkin pies of two weeks ago give way to the product for which the bakery is probably best known, doughnuts, traditional for the upcoming Hanukkah holiday.
"The thing is, you can't skimp," says co-owner Evan Zucker. "I've actually heard people say that I put in too much filling!"
In the coming weeks, Zuckerbakers will be baking about 8,000 doughnuts, as customers come clamoring for the treat.
Zuckerbakers products are sold in about 175 ShopRite stores in the New York metropolitan area, but Zucker, who co-owns the business with his wife, Stacy, and her parents, said it's the cozy bakeshop in Wantagh that is the company's heart and soul.
"It's the people, especially the children," he said. "I've seen them grow up from literally in the belly, and now they come in and they want a cookie."
Zuckerbakers specializes in old-fashioned baked goodies, like black and white cookies and those doughnuts, with a new-age awareness of food sensitivities. Everything in the store is nut- and dairy-free, and there are also gluten- and sugar-free selections.
Especially at this time of year, it's time to make the doughnuts -- in spades.
Your training is through apprenticeships. What is the No. 1 thing you learned?
I learned that there's a right way and a wrong way to do things, and the right way is quality ingredients and to take your time. You can't rush that homemade quality. It's time and patience.
What is your biggest challenge?
Keeping prices in check with commodity prices fluctuating. I was talking to one of my suppliers about egg prices, and he said the reason egg prices are up is because of breakfast sandwiches. The storm in Buffalo has affected my flour supplier, and I am dependent on that.
I've heard of doughnut flavors like halvah and chili chocolate. What is the most offbeat doughnut flavor you've considered?
I stick to the classics. It's what my customers want and what they come back for, so it's apple, raspberry jelly, vanilla and chocolate.
What's your personal favorite?
I like the chocolate. We actually dip it in chocolate fondant [for customers], but I like it just plain with the chocolate filling.
How do you deal with the issue of seasonality in terms of bottom line?
Thankfully we do have a lot of wholesale and that evens it out for us, but this is the busy season for us . . . In the summer I try to pick up extra business like day camps.
And how do you get all those doughnuts done without taking on extra staff?
We just work extra hard.
That notwithstanding, when one looks around the store all your employees seem to be smiling. Sugar high?
I treat them like family. I am very lucky to have the employees I have. I am not a slave driver, but they all know what they have to do, and we work together.
NAME: Evan Zucker, co-owner, Zuckerbakers, Wantagh
WHAT IT DOES: Bake traditional goodies that are nut- and dairy-free
REVENUES: $1.2 million