In a small town just 11 miles from East Lansing stands a small shop hidden in a strip mall with one word over the door: DONUTS.
Groovy Donuts was founded in 2015 by Andrew Gauthier and Monica Lewis and has been a Williamston town staple ever since.
When one walks through the door, they quickly will realize this shop is more than the average Dunkin’. When customers look around the shop, the first thing they notice is the unique ‘60s and ‘70s décor. The owners wanted to appeal to many different crowds, whether it be music lovers, nostalgic baby boomers, or people who just love concepts that are different and fun. The hippie aesthetic is just one aspect that sets Groovy Donuts apart from competition.
Each night before opening, Andrew and Monica work diligently to handcraft all their products before doors open at 7 a.m. Groovy Donuts has a large variety from classic donuts, crazy specialties, seasonal themes, and even a limited-edition donut of the week.
“The donut of the week started in 2020, when we were looking to add a little fun into what was a tough time for all. We and our customers really enjoyed it, so now we offer a different specialty donut every week,” said Gauthier.
Gauthier and Lewis pride themselves on pushing the limits with their flavors. They get ideas from requests, customer contests, their staff, and more. Although customer outreach is a great way to get ideas, Gauthier stated that most donut ideas stem from one simple question: can I make a donut version of that? If the flavor turns out to be good, it will eventually be added to the rotation.
The Groovy Donuts team knows they can always rely on their clients for feedback and well-deserved business. Being in Williamston most of their customers are locals from nearby cities, but they also catch some business from people getting off I-96.
“Running a business in a town like Williamston is an absolute delight,” said Gauthier. “You get to build relationships with your regulars over the years. You learn people’s habits. In some cases, when I see a certain car pull into the lot, I can have the person’s order bagged up before they even walk in, because we know them so well!”
In 2016 Groovy Donuts expanded and added a location in East Lansing, but in Williamston business is still booming with just one woman running the show. Elizabeth Williams has been a proud employee for five years and has no intention of leaving anytime soon.
“I taught dance which didn’t start until 4 p.m. or later and I always wanted a daytime job. I came in one day and asked the worker if she liked working here and she said she loved it. I knew she was leaving so I came back and handed my resume and schedule straight to Monica, told her this is when I can work, and walked right back out,” said Williams. “Four days later I received a call from Monica, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Gauthier and Lewis make sure everything is ready for a successful day in the shop before dawn, and when 7 a.m. rolls around Williams and her spunky personality are ready to run the show. Williams gets to work at 6 a.m. to chat with her bosses and help open the store, and often stays well past the 1 p.m. closing time. The unique hours are well worth it for Williams, whose favorite part of the job is connecting with customers.
“It’s just really fun which is why I like working here. We have some regulars where just like at a bar, it’s the same time and same order every day. It’s truly great,” said Williams when asked about the clientele. “We also get a lot of people off the highway due to our signs. That’s even more fun because they all have stories as to why they’re on the highway. I’m very nosy so I have to ask them everything!”
Williams can tell you about countless customer interactions, whether it be her old dance students, the Vietnam veteran with more than 200 loyalty stars, and anyone else who steps foot through the door. Williams also loves taking custom orders because it’s another way to dig deeper into customer lives.
“We do so many custom orders which we adore. We have what we call a hubcap which feeds 12 people, donut wreaths, letter cut donuts, we can write and add designs, we can do almost anything you want,” expressed Williams.
Emma Blanchard is a student at Michigan State University from St. Johns who knows and loves Groovy Donuts.
“Growing up my mom would always bring a bunch of donuts home for my sisters and I if she had work out near Williamston. It was so fun to try and guess the special flavors because they were never the same,” said Blanchard.
When Blanchard graduated high school in 2021 her family knew that they needed to get custom donuts for her graduation party. Although COVID-19 reduced Groovy Donuts hours significantly, Gauthier and Lewis kept busy with countless custom orders. These orders were vital in keeping the business afloat during 2020, and even helped lead to the decision of their current hours.
“In the middle of the summer we knew we wanted something that wouldn’t get ruined by the heat and easy for guests to just pick up and eat. Groovy Donuts made us a collection of MSU themed donuts that everyone loved,” said Blanchard. “It also felt great supporting a small business during a hard time especially one that is as loved as Groovy Donuts.”