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Dough for the holidays: Dough Joy's guilt-free donuts make Seattle's vegan nice list

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Photo courtesy of Dough Joy Donuts
Photo courtesy of Dough Joy Donuts

When Sean Willis met Christopher Ballard on a brief trip to Seattle years ago, neither of them initially suspected they would someday jointly venture into veganism, let alone get engaged and launch a vegan-donut food-truck business together.

Willis and Ballard — Photo courtesy of Dough Joy Donuts  

Nevertheless, Seattle is sure glad they did. Dough Joy Donuts is currently parked in Ballard — with occasional pop-ups across the city — and the truck has consistently sold out before closing since it launched in late May.

Vegan at first sight
Ballard says he accidentally began to phase out meat while cooking and going out to restaurants with already-vegetarian Willis, with dairy following shortly after. "I don't really know when it happened, but at some point, I just went vegan, and we have been vegan ever since," he said. "Now it's really something that we bond over and share together — the excitement of finding new restaurants and food together."

Sharing that enjoyment with each other apparently wasn't enough; the couple wanted to share it with others too. Ballard and Willis initially showcased their love of plant-based living by publishing a quarterly travel magazine called Outbound Herbivore. Now in its fifth issue, it aims to explore common questions people who are exploring plant-based lifestyles have along the way, according to Willis.

"The name came from 'out,' because we're out and proud, and then 'outbound' because it was originally about traveling and finding food," said Ballard. "Unfortunately, shortly after we really took off with Outbound online, COVID started, so we weren't really traveling all that much, mainly eating local."

Since then, the pair has helped host mini vegan markets, dinner pop-ups, and online events for Seattle eaters. "Then we really wanted to just build a community here," said Willis. "Not necessarily just people who were vegan, but showing people that were curious about incorporating more plant-based foods into their diet that doing so could be easy, it could be fun, there are lots of options. And that's kind of our philosophy about promoting vegan food."

Photo courtesy of Dough Joy Donuts  

Deep-fried dedication
Given the growing local network of vegan-friendly business owners and plant-based food connoisseurs, the pair found themselves confronted with an opportunity to add their own product to the scene. They knew the needs in the market and the wishes of the vegan community well, and that one universal challenge for vegan menus persisted in Seattle: desserts.

Vegan donut recipes the couple had tested at home became the basis of the Dough Joy menu, which features fun and seasonal flavor profiles, like the current pumpkin seed butter donut.

Photo courtesy of Dough Joy Donuts  

Coming soon to Capitol Hill
In its nearly six months of selling out daily, Dough Joy has surely proven that it's enticed the community by its mission to "do donuts differently." The handmade, fresh-daily products and top-notch service have paid off, as the business is now gathering the final permits to open on Capitol Hill next month, at the location of previously adored Old School Frozen Custard.

Customers have themselves to thank for the new brick-and-mortar venue — the purchase was made possible entirely through a Kickstarter campaign this fall. Though launched just three short weeks ago, the campaign has officially secured its purchase as of November 15, with $41,124 raised from 445 backers.

Ballard, originally from Wenatchee, expressed his love of Seattle and Capitol Hill for giving him and his new fiancé a home where they can continue to do what they love and be a part of a larger LGBTQ+ business community.

"People misunderstand that having a larger concentration of vegan businesses actually doesn't hurt them; it helps them all. It brings a vegan identity to that place," said Willis. "We're really excited to be surrounded by other Queer-owned vegan businesses," said Ballard.

Dough Joy's scheduled opening day at 1316 E. Pike is December 15, but Ballard and Willis say they are prepared for the possibility of delays due to ongoing national shortages. In the meantime, the pair looks forward to providing double their current production and bringing an innovative, Queer-owned, plant-based donut shop to Capitol Hill.

Gift guide
Bring Dough Joy to your loved ones this holiday season: A dozen fresh, colorful, seasonal doughnuts runs for $40, or a gift card for the new location could give someone a sweet December date idea.

Learn more about Dough Joy at https://doughjoydonuts.com/.