As another doughnut shop opens near the heart of Yale’s campus, Tony’s Orangeside Donuts has closed its brick-and-mortar location on Whitney Avenue, opting to sell its pastries without the high cost of a storefront.
In October 2015, the shop opened a new store at 24 Whitney Ave., right behind Timothy Dwight College. But in August, after almost 10 months of operation, owner Anthony Poleshek decided to close the store and focus instead on other methods of distributing his famous square-shaped doughnuts.
“The Whitney Avenue store — we thought it would be a good location” Poleshek said. “We thought the area would be good, but, being that it was kind of at the fringe of campus, we really didn’t get the drive or the traffic we needed to support a store.”
Now known as Tony’s Square Donuts, Poleshek’s business began in 2008 when he owned a restaurant called the Orangeside Luncheonette. The restaurant served mainly breakfast and lunch food with doughnuts from other sellers as a dessert option. But Poleshek quickly realized that doughnuts were the most popular item on his menu, so he decided to make his own.
Shortly after, Poleshek stumbled upon the idea of a square doughnut when he forgot his circle cutter one night. The square doughnuts caught on quickly with his customers and business took off.
“We were nationally recognized — Saveur Magazine put us in the top 50 doughnut shops in the United States” Poleshek said. “After that we found that doughnuts were more of our line of business, so we sold the restaurant side and stayed with the doughnuts.”
But his signature recipe and unique square shape were not enough to attract many customers to the Whitney Avenue location.
Another store that similarly sells dessert products, Crêpes Choupette, is located on Whitney Avenue, right next to the former location of Tony’s Square Donuts. But the creperie, which began as a food cart on Yale’s campus, has been able to retain a steady customer flow, said owner Adil Chokairy.
“The fact that the crepe cart became a creperie, a lot of it is due to the students, their support and their imagination,” he said.
Crêpes Choupette retained many of the customers it gained while operating as a food cart, Chokairy added.
Though Tony’s closed, the demand for donuts in New Haven is still strong, Poleshek said. He continues to receive custom orders from local institutions, including Yale, and sells his doughnuts wholesale to retail outlets.
Jason Wojnarowski, owner of Donut Crazy, which opened on York Street just last week, experienced this demand firsthand in the store’s first days of operation.
“We quietly started by word-of-mouth and a sign on our window with a countdown until opening,” Wojnarowski said. “But after our soft opening and the grand opening, the response has really been overwhelming.”
With other popular stores around Donut Crazy such as Ashley’s Ice Cream and Toad’s Place, Donut Crazy looks to avoid the location issue that Tony’s Square Donuts faced.
Following the closing of their storefront location, Tony’s Square Donuts now relies on a commercial bakery that sends doughnuts to nearby retail stores, such as Elm City Market and Black Olive Cafe. A food truck also drives through New Haven twice a week and attends events.
Tony’s Square Donuts accepts custom online orders.