Doughnut shops delight guests in downtown Columbia

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COLUMBIA- Though the product's not new, business is booming for doughnut shops in the area. 

As of December 2014 there were no doughnut shops in downtown Columbia. Over the past four months, this has changed. Two shops opened up just blocks apart from each other.

So, the question is, "why the sudden urge for doughnuts?"

"It's been around forever," said Michael Urban, owner of Harold's Doughnuts. "Doughnuts have been a staple of the American diet breakfast for generations. It's something that people are used to no matter where they came from, whether they were born here or came from other cities across the United States. Typically you have your neighborhood doughnut shop. Columbia didn't have that and that's what we're trying to create here."

Urban, who went to school in Columbia, said that owning a doughnut shop in the downtown area has always been a goal of his since he was a student, and is happy to finally get the chance to sell this treat to the public.

"I used to go down to Jefferson City with my friends to grab a doughnut and I thought that was completely unacceptable for a college town like this," he said.

Harold's Doughnuts, which is named after Urban's grandfather, opened its doors this January. The store helped make it's mark by selling doughnuts to tailgaters this past fall. By the time it officially opened it's doors, they had a large following already.

"It's been a great ride," Urban said. "It's been a long time coming for a shop like this in Columbia and I think Columbians couldn't be happier."

About three-and-a-half block away from Harold's lies Strange Doughnuts. A popular venue in St. Louis, management decided to join forces with another St. Louis eatery, Seoul Taco, and take over the old Freebirds World Burrito location.

"Everyone loves doughnuts, it's dough and sugar," said Stuart Abrams, Strange Donuts general manager. "Donuts are a pretty popular thing these days. We want to be the ones that stay for awhile and not be one of the trendier-type places. We're here to stay."

Like its name states, Strange Donuts sells items that are on the wacky and unique side. Instead of the classics like glazed and jelly, they sell doughnuts with bacon, ranch and nacho cheese. While some may stay away from Strange because of these flavors, Abrams said people are still coming in.

"They're really versatile," Abrams said."We collaborate with restaurants or create them ourselves. You can do the savory stuff, you can also do the regular stuff and the weirder sweet stuff."

And so far business has been good for both stores. Harold's had "sold out signs" up just a few hours after opening over their first few weeks open and Strange Donuts has customers lining up until the late hours of the night.

However, while business may be booming, these doughnuts are not the healthiest of treats.

"I think the biggest concern is the chronic consumption of doughnuts could lead to unhealthy eating habits," said Heather Leidy, an MU professor who studies the affects of breakfast foods. "If you look at the nutritional content of doughnuts they are primarily high in fat and high in calories."

Leidy said a plain doughnut has about 350 calories, the same amount as a breakfast burrito, and specialty doughnuts can be even higher. Leidy said due to their small size doughnuts also tend to not fill people up and make them wanting more for their meal. She says there are other good options for breakfast.

"They have a place in America, I just don't want them to replace breakfast" Leidy said."If that's what you're using in place of a meal, there are far more healthier options than a high-fat and high-sugar doughnut.

However, a doughnut as a treat once in a while isn't the end of the world.

"Doughnuts in itself are not evil, we've all had them in the past" she said.

While some people are worried that two doughnut shops in the same town wouldn't be able to co-exist, so far the two stores have been able to work well together. Harold's Doughnuts sells mostly in the early mornings, while Strange sells theirs during the late-evenings.

And though some may think there's a rivalry between the two, Abrams said this is far from the case.

"It's nothing but amicable feelings between us," Abrams said. "I think people want to see some type of rivalry or want to put us up against each other but they're two different doughnut shops and they're both doing well so there's nothing but love."