Need sustenance for your fall weekend plans? Just down the street from the University of Maine, the Donut GroVe is a new vegan specialty donut shop. Owners Tiffany Harris and Tracy Vassiliev have been selling their creations since 2020, offering a variety of flavors made with locally sourced ingredients. Located next to The Local and across from OHOP, the Donut GroVe is a go-to spot to satisfy any palette.
Harris and Vassiliev’s business began as a humble pandemic project. Harris, particularly, was intrigued by specialty donuts, which often include intricate toppings and unique flavors. She was inspired by certain donuts found in major cities like New York and Boston. There was just one problem: Harris was vegan, and many of these donuts were not. Taking matters into her own hands, she began crafting her own vegan recipe to share with friends and family. Tracy Vassiliev, who has known Harris since high school, began helping her make the donuts. Soon afterward, Harris and Vassiliev began their successful business at farmers’ markets in Bangor.
“We’d sell out, we couldn’t make enough donuts,” Harris said.
Although vegan specialty donuts might not be Bangor’s most popular food item, interest in their farmer’s market booth helped the pair realize that there was a niche market for them. The two recall one vegan customer who had just finished hiking Katahdin, overjoyed to try their donuts after an exhausting trip.
Although business was steady at the farmers’ market, Harris and Vassiliev ultimately wanted something more permanent. The construction process for their future shop proved to be harder than expected. Harris and Vassiliev described their learning curve as being almost vertical. Renovation of their space took eleven months.
“We thought we would be open in March…we didn’t finally open until September,” Vassiliev said.
Their opening day, although hectic, proved to be rewarding.
“We had no idea what to expect, and we thought we could just make donuts during the day, but we just couldn’t meet demand…we sold out by nine,” Vassiliev said.
Especially around opening day, the pair were grateful to their friends and family for their unwavering support.
“There’s no way we could have done this with just the two of us,” Vassiliev said.
Although the pair still encounter challenges, they aren’t easily discouraged. The Donut GroVe is their “passion project,” a dream they’re fulfilling for themselves. Both Harris and Vassiliev work during the week, so their weekend commitment to the business is a testament to their steadfast dedication.
“It’s just what we do. We love it. It is almost cathartic when you come in, and it’s early in the morning, and it’s quiet,” Vassiliev said.
Harris and Vassiliev are aware of the negative opinions that some hold against vegan food. The underlying preconceived notion is that vegan food simply does not and cannot taste good. The Donut GroVe’s treats are evidence against this outlook. The pair don’t want the vegan element of their food to discourage customers from trying it.
“Our goal is to sell to everyone and have them not know that they’re vegan,” Harris said.
It really is hard to tell that the donuts are vegan. They have fluffy interiors and crispy, fried exteriors. Flavors are numerous, including molasses, potato, sweet potato, vanilla and chocolate. Seasonal flavors, like pumpkin and ginger, are crowd favorites. Other popular flavors include peanut butter chocolate and lemon poppyseed.
It’s obvious that these donuts are hand-crafted specialty items. Each component tastes original.
“Everything that’s made — every jelly, jam, every topping…we make it all…so it takes time. So they’re really specialty items,” Harris said.
The two have realized that they can utilize their specific strengths to run their business smoothly. Harris works on creative endeavors like creating new donut flavors, while Vassiliev works on the business aspect.
“Tiffany is a wizard at social media. She’s the one that takes these gorgeous pictures and comes up with witty sayings,” Vassiliev said.
The Donut GroVe is currently open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The pair hope to extend their hours in the upcoming months. They are located at 153 Park St, Orono, Maine. The Donut GroVe’s Instagram account can be found at https://www.instagram.com/the_donut_grove/?hl=en.