New Owners Look to Expand Plaza Donuts

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — By 4 p.m. Monday, Plaza Donuts on Belmont Avenue was down to a few partial racks of the day’s doughnuts. That’s par for the course for the long-standing local doughnut shop since coming under new management.

Amy Spencer and her husband officially took over the company on Sept. 1 after spending about 30 days learning the trade from Howard and Michael Froomkin, the cousins who owned and operated the business for more than 40 years. One of the biggest lessons was learning how many doughnuts to make daily – sometimes up to 150 dozen.

Spencer is no stranger to food service. She co-owns Tangier Express restaurants in Austintown and Boardman with her husband, whose name is withheld upon request. After seeing the news story in March about Plaza Donuts closing, they put wheels in motion to purchase the business that turns 56 in November.

“It was an exciting opportunity,” Spencer said. “We immediately called and starting talking about purchasing it.”

They weren’t the only ones. Alan Friedkin, owner of Friedkin Realty, brokered the sale. He fielded “a lot” of calls about the doughnut shop.

“I probably had 15 to 20 different people who expressed an interest, but [the Spencers] were the only ones who really stepped up to the plate,” Friedkin said. The sale closed Aug. 31. Friedkin and Spencer declined to share the purchase price.

Spencer was drawn to Plaza Donuts because of its long history in the Youngstown area, she said. Seeing customers share Plaza Donuts memories on Facebook inspired her to make the purchase, she said, and she’s looking forward to continuing those traditions for the next generation.

“It was the same thing that drew us to Tangier,” she said. “Youngstown is unique. We have so many traditions that other places just don’t. Especially when it comes to restaurants.”

The couple’s first step was to reinstate Sunday hours, which Plaza Donuts ended in August 2017, she said. Customers “were disappointed that they closed on Sunday,” and Spencer hopes to draw in the church crowd. “Sunday is a big doughnut day, so we want to make sure we’re open.”

Opening more locations has been “part of the plan from day one,” she said. Spencer has hired 10 part-time workers to gear up for expansion, including drivers, bakers and counter servers. Locations in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties are being considered, she said.

The three Plaza Donuts stores, including the original shop at 3437 Belmont Ave. and satellite shops at 712 Boardman-Canfield Road and inside the downtown WRTA building, will be getting a facelift, she said. Wi-Fi has already been added to the Boardman location.

As for Plaza Donuts’ claim to fame, Spencer has plans for the doughnuts too. Old favorites, like doughnut holes and sour cream flavor, are making a comeback and customers haven’t been shy about requesting other favorites.

“I get that all the time,” she said. “People have some specific doughnut that they remember and they ask to bring it back.”

New flavors, such as cream sticks with peanut butter filling and chocolate icing, are proving popular, she said. The baker put some of those out Monday morning, and “they were sold out before I got here.”

Spencer looks to add more elaborate doughnuts as well to capitalize on the gourmet doughnut trend, she said. She’ll likely feature one gourmet doughnut weekly, with the first being a s’mores doughnut that includes chocolate syrup, graham cracker crumbles and plenty of icing.

The plans make former co-owner, Michael Froomkin, very happy, he said. Froomkin and his cousin, Howard, ran the business for 42 years, so he said he’s sad to leave it. But he’s happy that the business started by his father and uncle in 1962 won’t close with their retirement.

“I think they have a vision and they’re going to take Plaza Donuts to a new, higher level. I feel very confident in them,” Froomkin said. “I think my father and uncle would be pleased that it’s going to continue.”

Plaza Donuts is participating in Thursday’s Shop Liberty Day that coincides with the closing of Northside Regional Medical Center. The shop will offer $5 off a half dozen doughnuts – the number five symbolizing the nearly 500 workers that will be affected by the hospital’s closing.

Pictured: Amy Spencer is the new co-owner of Plaza Donuts.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.