Beloved Rutland bakery Jones' Donuts turns 100
It’s not even 5 a.m. and Jones' Donuts and Bakery has a steady stream of customers coming and going. Regulars who like to chat over coffee will come in a bit later; right now, it’s early birds on their way to or from work.
Alic Case says for locals like him, Jones' Donuts is iconic. "Well, of course I love the smell and the doughnuts are great. And everybody's always friendly.”
“Today I rode the motorcycle," says Case, pointing to the parking lot, "and [the smell of donuts] hit me when I turned the corner off Route 4."
Jones' Donuts and Bakery opened in 1923. That was the year Vermont native Calvin Coolidge became president, the year the iconic Hollywood [land] sign went up in Los Angeles, and gas cost 8 cents a gallon.
Case says Jones' Donuts staying power is impressive. "I would say not many businesses make it to the 100 year mark. So that is a great milestone. … Jones' is very well known in Rutland, and people usually have quite a smile on their face when you see a big white box on the table coming into work.”
Walter and Lynn Manney bought Jones' Donuts 10 years ago. They are the fourth owners, they tell me, in its 100 year history. And no, they didn't know any of the Jones'.
The location of the bakery has changed two or three times since it opened. Today, it’s in what used to be a pharmacy, which is why there’s a handy drive through.
But it’s not fancy. While there are a few tables and chairs, it doesn’t feel like a trendy cafe.
It’s a bakery, and the muscle of the place is behind the counter in the kitchen where Lynn Manney begins making the donuts from scratch each morning at 2 a.m.
“Today, we will probably make about 40 dozen of the rings that are used for glazed or frosted ... probably about 60 dozen of the shells," explains Manney. "Those are the round doughnuts that get filled with jelly or other fillings.”
She and her staff deftly handle pastry bags bursting with lemon, blueberry, apple and other fruit fillings.
“We have a vanilla cream and chocolate cream and maple cream," continues Manney, "And those are all put into the donuts by hand, one donut at a time.”
Lynn Manney says they have about eight or nine employees, including herself, and she says they use many of the shops’ original recipes.
They make: crullers and old-fashioned cake donuts, turnovers, pie squares, cinnamon buns, elephant ears and cookies.
Their cookies are very popular, says Manney, pointing to a tray of red white and blue flag shaped cookies that are part of a special order. The front display case is filled with flower-shaped cookies frosted in an array of pastels.
Lynn wears a white apron and blue gloves, and moves quickly from filling donuts to arranging them in boxes for a custom order.
"It's hard work," she says, and the crazy hours make the job and staffing difficult. "But there's the other side of it," she adds, "where you're providing happiness for people. We have customers whose children are in college; they'll come home and they still want to know if they're gonna get their Easter cookies. So you're — you're part of their family traditions."
While Lynn oversees the kitchen, her husband Walter works the front of the shop with a salesmen’s flare for gab and service. Most of the early customers he knows by name, and there's a steady stream of banter as they come and go.
Behind the counter, 18-year-old Chase Thorner rings up another order. She's home from college and is working at the bakery for the summer.
Her shifts start at 5 a.m. which can be tough, she admits, but the ambiance of the place is special.
“I just feel like whenever you walk through the door you’re like, 'Oh my God.' It’s like warm, cozy, you love the smell — it brings you comfort, and you see this counter with all the sweets on it, and you’re like, 'I made the right choice walking through this door,'" she adds smiling.
Besides Jones Donuts', Walter and Lynn also own a popular breakfast restaurant in Mendon called Sugar and Spice. And if that wasn't enough, Walter also sells cars at a large dealership in town.
"You get used to the long hours," Lynn says, shrugging. "It's what we do."
Walter says they’re not ready to retire or sell, but he says slowing down sounds good. He says the couple's children are not interested in taking over the bakery, so when they do eventually sell Jones' Donuts, the Manneys hope it will stay local.
Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.