Launching in April 2016 with all the right ingredients—a social media following that loves dissecting doughnuts on video and instant love from Las Vegans in need of a sugar rush—Donut Bar put brothers Jeff and Joe Thomas on the map after years of entrepreneurial starts and stops.
At Life Is Beautiful, Donut Bar sold 4,000 doughnuts a day from a pop-up booth at the festival, and during last May’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, “People stopped here instead of finishing the race,” Jeff says.
But with year 2 approaching, how do the pair keep the momentum as fresh as their doughnuts? “By building relationships,” Joe says.
Before becoming the self-described makers of the “Best Donuts in the World,” the brothers Thomas arrived in Las Vegas in 2001 and began making connections while launching a number of successful—and some unsuccessful—businesses around town. From renting scooters on the Strip to running a Caesars Palace gift shop, they stayed busy while looking for the opportunity that might set them up for life.
They appear to have found it in San Diego’s acclaimed Donut Bar. The shop’s reputation for inspired, unconventional recipes, such as the Big Poppa-Tart (a doughnut stuffed with a Pop Tart) and the Oreo-infused Birthday Cake doughnut, had landed the business at the top of numerous travel and dining lists, while drawing viral attention from the likes of Steve Harvey and Conan O’Brien.
The brothers spent a year and a half training with Donut Bar owners Santiago Campa and Wendy Bartels before bringing a franchise to Downtown’s John E. Carson building, in a spot formerly occupied by
O Face Doughnuts.
Jeff and Joe say they pay a “small royalty,” but the store is theirs. Working in conjunction with the San Diego chefs, they change the menu every day, but keep some of the most popular items (including The Simpsons fan favorite Homer’s Donut) in constant rotation.
The store currently sells about 1,500 doughnuts on weekdays and 3,000 on weekends, Joe says, and devotees know to arrive early. Donut Bar usually sells out by 1 p.m., at which point the lights go out and the brothers write “Sold Out” on the windows. Of course, that doesn’t always stop the occasional passerby from pulling on the front door handle, just in case.