Courtney Buckley turns her popular doughnut shops into a grocery business to support local vendors.
by Ben Jarrell
As big-box steakhouses receive bailouts meant for your favorite neighborhood grill, as farmers face green in the fields and red in the books, and at a time when (most) people are practicing social distancing, Courtney Buckley, owner of Your Mom’s Donuts is embracing togetherness. She is demanding clean, local food. She’s fostering community.
Between her two shops, orders for pickling cucumbers, egg salad and yellow squash stack up alongside the usual requests for doughnuts, bread and cinnamon rolls. What began as a makeshift triage farmers market of sorts for a handful of families was soon handling 300 customers and moving thousands of dollars worth of groceries per week.
She may not have been following a plan, but Buckley had the experience for such a venture.
Before the global pandemic, before Your Mom’s Donuts opened in 2014, Buckley connected chefs in town with local farmers and their goods.
Her business name?
“It never really had a name. It was super grassroots,” says Buckley, whose business at the time was word-of-mouth, informal, simply following the relationships she had built over time.
“I like to get stuff done, but I’ve never been a good planner,” she admits.
For the last year or so, Buckley and the brother and sister team Chase and Yorke Reynolds of Two Pigs Farm in Rowan County had floated a similar concept. But with two doughnut shops and the recent absorption of Carolina Artisan Breads, Buckley’s energy was committed elsewhere.
Still, the idea sat, proofing like a yeast-risen dough on the prep table of her mind.
Then in early 2020, the coronavirus arrived. Buckley noticed the immediate effect the crisis had on local businesses.
Buckley jumped into action.
“Fortunately, I have all of those connections, still.”
After assessing the demand for a grocery service, she began sourcing products. Even with two pickup locations — the former key-shop kiosk at Park Road Shopping Center and the original Matthews store — space at Your Mom’s Donuts was limited.
Ten years, one 7-year-old, twin 5-year-olds, and a thriving small business later, Buckley is once again using those relationships to create something new. And technically it doesn’t have a name either. For now, her business is still based around that of Your Mom’s Donuts.
“It’s a little more complicated now because instead of just dropping off at, say 10 restaurants, I am doing 200 individual orders for people,” Buckley says.
Vendors include farms such as Lucky Leaf Gardens out of Harrisburg, Cold Water Creek Farms in Gold Hill, and her friends at Two Pigs Farm in Rowan County. Cheese is sourced mainly from Rachel Klebaur at Orrman’s Cheese Shop, along with a local water buffalo cheese from Fading D Farm in Salisbury. Prepared food items from locals like Hannah Riley of Alternative Chef and Beverly McLaughlin of Beverly’s Gourmet Foods also are available. Buckley sells many items at the same price charged by the vendors themselves. Facilitating local commerce seems to be her main goal. That, and keeping her staff of 10 working — and they’ve been busy.
“When I talked with my manager and we game-planned this, we said if we get 20 to 30 families a week that we’re taking care of, hopefully we’ll be able to maintain salaries, keep everybody on staff,” Buckley recalls. “We did 300 orders last week.”
To mitigate risks during the pandemic, the staff spends time sanitizing and bagging every order. Curbside pickup is offered two days a week at each location. The business only accepts electronic payments — cash is prohibited.
Welcome to food in the corona-world.
“I think we’ll keep this going as long as we can,” Buckley says when asked about the longevity of her new venture. “It has been amazing to see the support of the local community.”
In the first two weeks, she added a third pickup location at Summit Coffee in Davidson. A fourth pickup location was in the works at Free Range Brewing in NoDa.
Thanks to PitchBreakfast, a local investment group geared toward startups, expansion is already underway. Thirty-two local businesses applied for grants offered to businesses who have pivoted operations during the coronavirus crisis. Buckley’s Zoom video was good enough to land in the top four, earning $3,000 she planned to use to purchase a new double-door commercial refrigerator.
Now, for a handful of local businesses, there is a certain comfort in an uncertain future.
“Being able to write an $800 check to a small producer who is about to close down is amazing,” Buckley says. “I love writing checks now.”
As Buckley says, she’s not much of a planner. This year, however, hasn’t been the best for sticking to a plan. But making a commitment to help struggling local businesses — then figuring out how — shows she is capable of doing a helluva lot more than make a good doughnut.
“I will work with any vendors that want in,” Buckley says.
“The more of us that can band together, the better it is for everyone.” SP
featured photograph by Peter Taylor