A Conversation With Dana Lanier

Food, Tastemakers
doodles doughnuts

interior david turner photo

There are doughnut (donut?) shops cropping up all over Chicago that take the much beloved pastry beyond old fashioned and chocolate glazed. One of these such wonders is Doodle’s Doughnuts, an Old Town shop known for three glorious things: doughnuts, bacon and coffee.

The brainchild of San Jose native Dana Lanier, Doodle’s Doughnuts was born from the idea that every neighborhood should have its own independent doughnut shop. A lifelong baker, Dana’s love of sweet treats is evident in her menu: you’ll find flavors ranging from double chocolate cake and maple bacon to pink lemonade and the shop’s specialty: filled bismark doughnuts with white icing, each of which offers a delicious canvas for your own creative design.

We chatted with Dana to learn more about this successful entrepreneur’s background and how she finds the time to make the doughnuts.

dana portrait at doodles

What was your first job out of college?

My first job out of graduate school (University of California at Davis, MFA in Dramatic Art, emphasis directing) was as a technician in a small municipal theater.  I liked it because it was an opportunity to make money in a field where all anyone ever talked about was how you can’t make money in the theater.  I didn’t like it because I was the only woman working there and it was, as a result, a relatively uncomfortable environment.

What led you to open Doodle’s Doughnuts?

A series of events.  In 2010, my family was relocated from Northern California (where I was born and had been raised) to Philadelphia.  Having been accustomed to a large variety of independent doughnut shops with good quality doughnuts to choose from, it was disappointing to find very limited options and primarily just a national chain.  So, as a lifelong baker, I set my mind to making doughnuts at home.  It wasn’t long before I started to think about a business.  Then, in 2014, when my family was relocated to Chicago, we started planning for opening Doodle’s here.

How do you start each day?

The day starts anywhere between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., depending on what is going on with the production plan and staffing.  I wake, shower and head to the shop.  I live very close to the shop’s location, so if timing and weather permit, I like to walk to work.

Working in a doughnut shop sounds like a dream job! What does your typical work day look like?

So much depends on the day of the week and any shop staffing issues.  Assuming I am not needed to step into a kitchen or customer service role, I go into the shop and check on the quality of the doughnuts made that day, reviewing the appearance of the icings and decorations and the shape of the doughnuts.  If something looks unusual, I may taste a doughnut or two for quality. Then, I may work in the front helping customers and making espresso drinks, interview a job candidate, meet with a vendor or coordinate with our PR agency.

davidturnerphoto-1 copy

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

I had a professor who told me that some times we have to adjust how we communicate with someone in order to be effective.  I had been trying to rationalize with someone in order to get them to arrive on time and it wasn’t working.  He explained that maybe this individual didn’t think it was important unless I “lost my cool” about it. The next time the person was late, I “staged” a tantrum about his tardiness.  He was never late again.  The upshot is that we are all individuals and we need to be attentive to how others receive us.

It’s 5:00 p.m. on a Friday. What’s in your glass?

Probably still iced coffee but on a good day perhaps a crisp hard cider.

What is your favorite meal to eat for lunch?

A salad bar salad piled high with veggies, nuts, meat and cheese.

What is your favorite room of your home and why?

Family room because it is the center of the house and the center of activity, sharing and relaxation.

If you could hop on a plane and go anywhere right now, where would you go and why?

Florence, Italy for it’s small walk-ability, people, language and FOOD.

What is the one thing on your bucket list you most look forward to?

Hiking the Appalachian trail with my sons.

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