A line of about three dozen hungry kids, parents and state employees snaked out the door of Dirty Dozen Donut Shop late Friday morning.
That is, by all accounts, the norm at Helena’s newest, and only, dedicated doughnut spot.
Employees at the shop, located blocks from the Capitol at 1433 11th Ave., say they’ve sold out of doughnuts every day since they first opened last week.
Dirty Dozen manager Karlee Kleinschmidt reported sending a daily average of 2,400 fried balls of dough through the shop’s doors -- a total she said has the store’s 10 employees, and its single, hand-cranked doughnut hole puncher, straining to keep up.
“The crowds coming back and the people on Facebook understand that we’re trying to up our production every day,” she said. “The Helena community’s been great. They keep coming back and they keep giving us good feedback, so that’s been good to hear.”
The cinematically themed shop -- named after the 1967 blockbuster war movie starring Ernest Borgnine -- opened just hours after winning a stamp of approval from health inspectors.
That meant Kleinschmidt, a trained pastry chef, had to concoct much of the Dirty Dozen’s menu on the fly.
What she came up with -- doughnuts featuring everything from sugary cereals to peanut butter and bacon, including many named after western gunslingers and tropical cocktails -- didn’t strike Sherry Kosena as hastily inspired.
Kosena, a first-time customer considering a coconut butter cream doughnut called a “Blue Hawaii,” said she didn’t mind spending a few minutes in line waiting for it.
“This is probably a replacement for the Donut Hole,” she said, referring to the Euclid Avenue doughnut shop that closed its doors this time last year. “They were there for generations, up where the new Starbucks is. They had doughnut birthday cakes, all kinds of things. It was really good.”
Kleinschmidt, like Kosena, chalked up some of the Dirty Dozen’s immediate popularity to Helenans’ pent-up demand for doughnuts.
She also gave credit to the shop’s employees and its owners, Joe and Kristin Thomas, first-time restaurateurs who, in the wake of the Donut Hole’s closure, decided to start a doughnut shop of their own.
Joe Thomas, an elevator mechanic, said he bought much of the shuttered store’s equipment and test-drove it at home in the yearlong run-up to opening the Dirty Dozen, giving out doughnuts to friends and family members who in turn helped him come up with doughnut recipes.
He and his wife Kristin, who works for Blue Cross Blue Shield, shelled out their own cash for a floor-to-ceiling overhaul of the retail space now occupied by the shop.
The pair still work day jobs, but moonlight at the shop, helping employees prepare the next round of thousands of doughnuts set to sell in the morning.
So far, it seems, the Dirty Dozen can use every extra hand it can get.
“If we ever have days where we have day-old (doughnuts), we want to do something called a ‘Dirty Dozen,’ where we just throw a day-old into a dozen, for a discount, and don’t tell (the customer) which it is,” Kleinschmidt said. “If there’s ever a day where we can start that, that’d be fun, but I’m OK with selling out, too.”
Dirty Dozen is open 6 a.m. to noon Tuesday through Sunday. For more information on the shop, visit the dirtydozendonuts.com.