Walk into Dam Donuts in Bellefonte and you’ll instantly be hit with the mouthwatering scent of fresh doughnuts, frying right behind the counter and perfectly iced before being slid into the colorful display case. The small shop is easy to find, with its bright pink lettering and Homer Simpson-esque doughnut brandishing the window. Once inside, the local spot is even more unmistakeable, with the bright decor and whimsical, kid-friendly seating area.
But this casual storefront that seems so at home along West High Street was a long time coming, according to owner Traci Beck.
“Fifteen years ago we tried to open a bakery,” she said. “We just couldn’t pull things together, but the dream really never died.”
At the time, Beck was working as a mail carrier. Her friends, family and co-workers knew her as a fantastic home baker, always reliable to show up to any function or birthday with unbeatable desserts.
“That’s my goal in life, to make people happy with my food,” Beck said. “Just makes me feel like that’s my purpose.”
Eventually, the bakery dream would resurface, this time to come to fruition. “We were actually on vacation and we talked about it, and instead of a bakery, we thought, why don’t I just focus on one thing I do well?” Doughnuts were chosen as the star item, with the thought being that Beck would use the doughnuts as a vehicle for her other culinary talents and creativity.
The idea needed a name, and Beck, who lives in Howard, was inspired by her family’s joke that they name it after the Foster Joseph Sayers Dam.
“We couldn’t get over it,” she said. “So even though we didn’t stay in Howard and we came here, we still had to keep the name. We love (it).”
Dam Donuts officially opened last year, May 28, and the business is looking forward to its first anniversary. While some of the celebratory details have yet to be revealed, the birthday doughnut is poised to be a hit.
“A cannoli doughnut is what we’d like to introduce for our birthday celebration,” Beck said.
The variety will join a regularly changing menu.
“We always have something new,” Beck said ; whether it’s Mother’s Day or Memorial Day, no holiday or season is too small to inspire a new treat. However, the crowd favorite continues to be maple bacon, followed by strawberry cheesecake. One of the newer varieties that’s seeing some traction is the cowtail. But for Beck, her favorite is the berry surprise, and the plain cake doughnuts, which she likens to a funnel cake.
Can’t find something on the menu that strikes your interest? No problem. The fresh doughnuts can be combined with Beck’s homemade frostings and toppings any way you like. Better yet, these doughnuts are just smaller than your average size, making them perfect for trying and tasting.
“I really like (the size) because people can try different flavors,” Beck said. “A lot of people in groups will order a dozen and they’ll all sample each other’s.”
While the crowds are quite often families, recent outreach has attracted students from Penn State as well. Now, Dam Donuts also fulfills large orders for businesses, parties and weddings, and they’ll even deliver to your event.
Over the weekend, you can nearly always expect the doughnuts to be just-made, as the crew turns out fresh doughnuts all day to keep up with demand. Overall, the community response has been highly supportive, Beck said.
“It’s been awesome,” Beck said of her dream-come-true business. “At the beginning, people kept asking us to stay open longer, later in the evening, so we did. Like a lot of people going home from work wanted to be able to stop and get doughnuts, which I never expected. Everyone’s been welcoming.”
Holly Riddle is a freelance food, travel and lifestyle writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
What: Dam Donuts
Where: 216 W. High St., Bellefonte
Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Info: 548-7825, www.damdonuts.com