Flint’s Blueline Donuts
According to Bruce Sowles, two great things happened in 1984: The Detroit Tigers won the World Series, and Sowles learned how to make donuts.
So, some 30 years later when Sowles noticed that the staff of Carriage Town Ministries—the Flint homeless shelter where he lives—was experimenting with donut making, he wanted in. That was a year ago, and in the months that followed, Program Director Nic Gatlin led Carriage Town Ministries in perfecting their donut-making technique, hiring Sowles as head baker and introducing Blueline Donuts to downtown Flint.
Sowles’ unbridled passion for donuts and donut making is infectious. He’ll gladly tell you about experimenting with kiwi and blueberry or how he yelled out loud when the custard he recently made set perfectly. The difference, he admits with a twinkle in his eye, between Blueline donuts and everyone else’s, is that his donuts are made fresh every day with the best ingredients.
Residents of the homeless shelter make the donuts and in turn gain valuable job skills. It’s a job-training program with an edible result. “Baking is a skill that is good for everybody. It is also a skill you can take out there and work in the marketplace and earn some money,” says Executive Director Dallas Gatlin.
Every Wednesday morning from 7 to 11, Carriage Town sells Blueline donuts at their main building on Garland Street. The name Blueline is a nod to the local police force. “We wanted to improve the relationship between police officers [and] our residents, some who have crossed paths with the law before,” Gatlin says. “We want law enforcement to be comfortable coming here. It also helps them learn a little bit about how normal we all are. There’s a stigma around the country [about] homeless shelters.”
Blueline Donuts are the ideal blend of a crisp outer layer with a moist cake-like interior. Some of the credit for their success goes to a Flint staple, Donna’s Donuts, who helped Blueline get started.
Two local coffee roasters, Foster Coffee Company and Heyday Coffee Roasters, sell Blueline donuts during the workweek. Recently, Sowles created an espresso donut made out of Foster’s own coffee, which is sold exclusively at the coffee shop in downtown Flint.
“Without Bruce and his experience and his skills, it would have taken us a much longer time to get up to speed, and we probably wouldn’t be where we are right now,” Gatlin says.
“I’ve been baking donuts since ’84, and I’ve learned more in this last year,” Sowles says. Freedom to experiment inspires him. When Carriage Town received a case of cranberries from Meijer, Sowles thought, “What are we going to do with these cranberries?” Then he decided to create a delicious cranberry filling.
The memory makes him smile, and then he says almost sheepishly, “I hate to say it, but sugar is amazing.”
Learn more at CarriageTown