Paula Huber says she had nightmares she would lose her doughnut shop’s loyal following when it moved this week from Kenmore Avenue in North Buffalo to Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda.
Those fears, however, proved to be unfounded Wednesday at 5 a.m. when she discovered a line of customers as doors opened at the new home of Paula’s Donuts.
“I’m surprised,really,” she said at a table in the spacious new location at 2319 Sheridan. “I didn’t think it was going to be as busy as it was, so I’m thrilled.”
That line stretched from the order counter out the door until 2 p.m., Huber said, and traffic remained steady past the dinner hour until closing at 9 p.m. as customers stopped in to pick up red velvet, key lime, angel cream, chocolate frosted and strawberry shortcake doughnuts. There were regulars from the old shop near the Budwey’s Supermarket where her lease expired after nearly 17 years, as well as new faces.
“The last place, you could tell it was well loved and used, but this is a nice atmosphere to sit down and relax,” said Chuck Kron, of Angola, who stopped by with his mother, Carmella.
She bought a dozen doughnuts, which she was going to split between her family and co-workers at New Era Cap Co. She also bought one of Paula’s famous oversize Texas doughnuts for her auto mechanic husband to share at work.
“When you find something that you really think is a solid product, you want to share it with everyone,” said Chuck Kron.
While Huber and her staff put in long hours on opening day, Wednesday was really a soft launch for Paula’s, with a grand opening planned for September.
Huber said she already has received a warm welcome from the neighborhood. Bouquets of flowers arrived Wednesday from the town’s competitive synchronized swimming team, the Aquettes, and from Caputi’s Sheridan Pub, which shares the shopping plaza between Belmont Avenue and Parker Boulevard with Paula’s. One regular customer brought Huber flowers from her garden and a 4-year-old boy presented her with a single pink rose.
“The people have really welcomed us with open arms,” she said.
Paula’s inhabits ground considered sacred by some doughnut aficionados. The plaza is the former home of Jet Donuts.
Huber was desperately seeking a photo of the long-closed shop to reproduce. After her daughter posted a request on Paula’s Facebook page, a customer responded early this week and dropped off a photo of Jet at dawn with its neon lights burning bright. A large print hangs on the wall as a nod to a time when small mom-and-pop doughnut shops were predominant.
Friends Walter Patcyk, of Kenmore, and John McGowan, of the Town of Tonawanda, were glad to see Paula’s added to the busy stretch of Sheridan that features such famous local food brands as Ted’s, John & Mary’s and Anderson’s.
“I’m so glad that she chose this area,” Patcyk said. “It’s a good choice. She’s got a lot of space here.”
Sisters Patti Casterline, of Kenmore, and Jackie Hobson, of Silver Creek, stopped by early Wednesday morning but abandoned their doughnut mission after noticing the crowded parking lot and store. They returned late in the afternoon after the crowds died down.
“When’s the last time you were at another doughnut shop that you saw this many people?” Casterline asked. “Everybody loves Paula’s. … Her doughnuts are very special.”