Before you even enter Darn Donuts (8723 4th Avenue), the bubblegum pink-and-green signage suggests sugary treats are served within.
The gourmet donut shop had its ribbon-cutting in Bay Ridge Saturday, drawing fans, food critics, community members of all ages, and even a state senator.
Owner 25-year-old Daniel Eivazov — a Bensonhurst native who attended PS 226 and Sinai Academy for high school — has been a business man for as long as he can remember. When he was 18, Eivazov sold women’s makeup out of the trunk of his car. Lately, he’s made a name for himself developing real estate in Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach.
Then, four years ago, shortly after completing an accounting degree at Baruch College, Eivazov set his sights on the food business.
“Donuts make people happy and food makes people happy, and I saw that there was a necessity for gourmet donuts in southern Brooklyn,” he said.
His parents, immigrants of Azerbaijan, were convinced he was joking. In their home country, donuts did not exist. And yet, four years later, the young entrepreneur is proving them wrong. He is already thinking about opening a second location.
Now he juggles two full-time businesses — one in Sheepshead Bay and one in Bay Ridge — but Eivazov says he always ends up circling back to the old neighborhood.
“When ever I go to Bensonhurst, it feels like home, because when I came to America, that was the first place I came to,” he said.
Eivazov has a warm handshake and easy smile. Customers told us his sincere, approachable demeanor and the store’s colorful decor first attracted them to the donut shop and compelled them return for more.
“I wasn’t a donut fan until I came here,” gushed Sneha, a 15-year-old junior at Fort Hamilton High School. “Each donut has their own quality that I’ve never seen before. My favorite is the pretzel donut. Sweet and salty. Now I come in here every single week and I have to buy five.”
The feeling is mutual.
“The colors, making people happy, seeing kids come in and take pictures with my giant donut, it really warms my heart,” said Eivazov.
Though he hopes to open many locations, Eivazov he says Darn Donuts will never be “a franchise.”
It’s not easy launching a novelty donut shop in a neighborhood dominated by old timey bakers peddling more traditional versions of the treat (we’re looking at you, John’s and Mike’s). When it first opened, in May 2015, the donut shop faced some harsh feedback from food critics and Yelpers alike.
But rather than moping, Eivazov says he took the feedback to heart.
“It’s very up and down,” he said of the donut business. “A business is like a baby; you get upset when bad things happen to it. Like with those reviews: most people would get upset. But I didn’t just get upset — I looked at them, I studied them, and I improved the recipe.”
The extra TLC has paid off. My colleague Heather Chin and I were more than impressed when we sampled a pair of gigantic pillowy buns, which came dripping in toppings and stuffed with generous dollops of sweet, creamy filling.
We tried the chocolate pudding donut — which had actual pudding in its center — and the shop’s signature “Darn Donut,” a sprinkled, Barbie-pink creation soaked in sugar. Each was breathtaking to look at and even more decadent to bite into.
The caramel pretzel and strawberry cheese cake donuts were also worth honorable mentions for innovation, so we took them home and and were pleased by the synergy of flavors.
Hands down, our favorite was the basic glazed donut — soft, fluffy, and bouncy, with a perfectly proportioned icing-to-bread ratio.
“It was a long dream. It took about four years to get it up and running,” Eivazov told us. “But I love it.”