The future of the midnight donut run

Georgia Lodewyk—Staff Writer

Photo Credit: Georgia Lodewyk

It’s 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and the Dutch Bakery in Orange City, Iowa is almost out of donuts. Still in their display cases are a few cream-filled long-johns, glazed donuts, and one lone apple fritter. It’s been a busy day, as regulars linger with their morning coffee. The Dutch Bakery has been a community staple for quite some time now—since 1974.

“This building was actually a variety store first,” Loren Mulder, said, who has run the bakery for 12 years. “I remember buying my mom’s Christmas present here.”

The building proves its age as well. There’s a mark on the glass from a BB gun made by the first owner and his brother when they were kids. Inside, there’s an authentic Dutch cookie press—one Mulder has only seen a duplicate of in a museum. For Mulder and many of the regulars, the Dutch bakery serves as a tribute to the area’s Dutch heritage and its community. But not all traditions last forever. 

For a dozen years, Mulder and his family spent three to four extra hours on Friday nights frosting donuts for hundreds of hungry college students representing over five different higher learning institutions. For many students, the one dollar late-night donut deal became a highlight of their week.

“Eating donuts at midnight just hits different,” said Alayna Van Regenmorter, a sophomore. “When midnight donuts were happening, my friends and I would go almost every Friday night.”

Some Friday nights the bakery took in 500 dollars or more—the same amount of profit from the entire day. After the COVID-19 pandemic, however, staff shortages put a strain on Mulder’s tradition. 

“I lost my Saturday morning froster,” Mulder said, “So now I have to wake up at 4 a.m. on Saturdays to frost donuts and my wife has to wake up at 6 a.m. That’s a quick turnaround.”

As of last year, the bakery ended its 12-year-long tradition but continues to offer discounted donuts to students after 3 p.m. While Mulder enjoys the extra free time, he misses the opportunity for outreach provided by the sweet treats.

“We never saw it as a money-maker,” Mulder said. “It was somewhere for people to come on a Friday. It’s a nice place for people to sit and visit and meet people from other schools.”

The young adult population remains a target demographic for local bakeries and coffee shops. Other businesses in the area, including Casey’s Bakery in Sioux Center, are looking to provide something similar: a space where students can sit and be.

A month ago, Ryan De Groot kickstarted “Donuts After Dark” at Casey’s Bakery from 7-10 p.m. every Wednesday night. Here, fresh donuts are pulled off the fryer, set in the display, and sold for 1.25 each. A card table full of games including Code Names, Dutch Blitz, and Rook sit out in the lobby. 

At a recent Donuts After Dark, De Groot greeted incoming customers by name, reminding them to place their names in the raffle for mall gift cards and try the bakery’s weekly “signature drink”—pomegranate creamsicle. reminding them to put their names in the raffle ticket for mall gift cards, and try their weekly “signature drink”, one that one of the workers have selected. Wednesday, the drink was pomegranate creamsicle. 

Photo Credit: Georgia Lodewyk

De Groot has been working at Casey’s Bakery, located in the Centre Mall, since age eleven. The bakery’s namesake is his grandpa. De Groot started filling and frosting donuts in fifth grade.

“As a community, we all like Dordt and the students and the interaction you have between them,” De Groot said. “We just enjoy having them here, and we’re hoping that it’s something to make memories with.”

De Groot hopes to add a student discount for drinks and donuts—under a dollar, ideally. His bakery also plans to feature a new menu item each week. They featured a soft pretzel night earlier in the year and may include an “appetizer night” with french fries, cheese balls, and steak bits for sale. 

Though not at midnight, De Groot wants Casey’s Bakery to create a space similar to what the Dutch Bakery provided—a place where people can gather.

“Something like this is a different version of that,” he said. “Because it is such a memorable thing.”

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