ORIGINALLY WRITTEN LAURA CAMPBELL
Not many families routinely get up at midnight to drive for half an hour from one small town to another.
Even fewer follow a late-night car ride with a bout of baking into the wee hours of the morning.
But that’s what Bart and Annie Eskeldson of Ramona have been doing with their daughters for just over two weeks now since they reopened Daylight Donuts in Hillsboro as the shop’s new owners.
And while they plan to move to Hillsboro eventually, cutting down drastically on that driving time, the togetherness of the car ride is part of the fun of running the shop together, Annie said.
“We get to go together, so it’s fun,” she said. “We like it because we’re all together.”
They’ve been in it together since they bought the store from former owners Kerry and Katy Magathan at the end of April.
The whole setup of their new venture is designed to keep family members close, Annie said, as she rejoins the working world after being stay-at-home mom to youngest daughter Ashli-Meghan, 17 months.
“I was kind of feeling the need to go back to work,” she said. “But it had to be something that I could take my daughter with me.
“That was important.”
The decision to purchase Daylight Donuts followed a long period of waiting and praying for a job opportunity to come along that would allow Annie to do just that.
“It’s really been a prayerful journey for me,” she said.
The journey has led Annie and her family to Hillsboro, for now to work here and eventually, she hopes, to live here as well.
“I would like to be involved in the community,” she said, “and it’s kind of hard when you live 30 miles away.”
But because Bart still farms in the Ramona area, it could be a while before the family completes the transition to town, she said.
For that reason, the Eskeldsons have put a lot of initial effort at the shop into remodeling a portion of the back room into a living area where family members can relax on breaks from making and selling doughnuts 12 hours each day.
“The real changes that we’ve made are definitely in the back,” Annie said. “(It’s) just a lot of updating that probably hasn’t happened for a really long time.”
Sheetrock, paint and wallpaper are going a long way toward making a temporary home away from home for the Eskeldson family, including oldest daughters Ayschia, 17, and Alyx, 14.
Annie said Alyx has been instrumental in decorating the back area, and will continue to exercise her artistic talent in sprucing up the seating areas of the shop to make for more of a coffeehouse atmosphere.
“We want to make the front more contemporary,” Annie said.
Annie brings her own blend of talent and experience to running the shop: her years in the restaurant business include work as general manager of Golden Corral restaurants in Nebraska and Kansas from 1997 to 2002.
With her experience in restaurant management, she said it should be simple enough for she and her husband to run the shop by themselves once their two oldest daughters go back to school this fall.
“I guess if I hadn’t been around dough and all of that with so many other things, I probably would be lost,” she said. “But I feel we’ve really taken to it like ducks to water. We’ve adapted real well.”
Still, there’s much to learn and do before they reach their goals for the shop, she said, and the former owners have been invaluable in the learning process.
“Neither of us had ever done anything with doughnuts,” she said. “But I watched Kerry work one night, and he watched Kerry work one night, and that’s really all we needed.
“We started with the easy stuff, and then each week, we add more,” she added. “We’re still on the learning curve.”
Family teamwork is key to their early-morning routine, Annie said.
“We leave about midnight and get here about 12:30,” she said.
They usually start baking around 1 a.m. and finish by 4:30 a.m., just in time to make coffee before regulars begin arriving between 4:45 and 5, she said.
“My husband does all the cake doughnuts and frying,” Annie said.
She prepares the raised doughnuts, she said, while Alyx helps with glazing and decorating.
As did the owners before them, the Eskeldsons offer a variety of doughnuts for their sweet-toothed customers.
Plain glazed and cake doughnuts sell for 45 cents apiece; twists, long johns and bismarcks for 69 cents each; fritters, honey bars, knots and bear claws for 89 cents each; and donut holes for $1 per dozen.
Other breakfast treats besides doughnuts are available, including cinnamon rolls for $1.35, sausage wraps for $1.49 and biscuits with gravy for $1.09.
Other baked goods such as lemon bread will be available on an occasional basis.
For beverages, customers can choose from gourmet coffee and cappuccino in various unique flavors such as S’mores and butter pecan, and from a refrigerated case filled with soda, milk, juice and Sobe drinks.
The shop also offers 16-ounce smoothies for $2 in peach vanilla, berry vanilla, pineapple vanilla or any combination of the three.
Eventually, Annie said, they plan to expand their menu to include more healthy items to appeal to wider variety of customers.
“Maybe somebody that wouldn’t come in for a donut, maybe they would come in for something healthier,” she said.
But for now, the main goal is to maintain the standard of excellence in doughnut-making set by the Magathans, Annie said.
“We want to keep everything pretty much the same,” she said. “They’ve done, really, the hard part for us.”
Like the previous owners, Annie said they would be glad to custom-make doughnuts to suit customers’ unique tastes.
“We’ll do special orders, as many as we can,” she said. “If we can accommodate, we sure will.”
They can also shape doughnuts into various letters of the alphabet, she said.
So far the response to their initial efforts has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The community has been awesome,” Annie said. “They have been so patient, so supportive, so encouraging.
“They put up with our learning, and have kept coming in,” she added. “We have been so blessed.”
Such support has made all the difference in these first few weeks, she said.
“If we were discouraged, it would be so hard,” she said. “But we’ve been encouraged every day.”
Hours will remain largely the same, Annie said, open Monday through Saturday from 5 a.m. to noon, or until they sell out of doughnuts, whichever comes first.
Another goal for the future is to reopen the shop from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. during the school year to make the shop an after-school hangout.
Annie would like to replace the current seating with tall wooden chairs and tables with shelves that would hold various table games for youth and/or adults to enjoy during those afternoon hours.
“I think it would awesome,” she said. “It (would be) a real break from video games and the violence and all of that.”
This kind of service would be just one way she and her family could minister to the community through a business she considers a God-given opportunity to help others.
“One thing I’ve really wanted to do is missions work,” she said. “But I feel like the doors closed on that for me.
“And so I feel like this is our opportunity to help other kids in the community,” she added. “It’s not really about us.”
She said it’s ultimately up to community members to decide whether or not services like opening in the afternoon would be needed or welcomed.
“If they’ll let us open, we’ll do it,” she said. “We really want to be a service to the community.”