Seattle’s Top Pot moves into Mill Creek

MILL CREEK — Snohomish County has a Top Pot Doughnuts cafe.

That’s right, doughnut fans. Grab your purse or your car keys and try not to drool. It’s at the University Book Store in Mill Creek, and it’s usually open until at least 7:30 p.m.

The popular Seattle-based coffee and doughnut joint quietly made its debut in Mill Creek earlier this month, setting up shop in a large corner of the University Book Store in Mill Creek.

This is the sixth location for Top Pot and the company’s only cafe outside King County.

“We’re just really happy to be in Mill Creek,” said co-founder Mark Klebeck late last week while putting the finishing touches on the bookstore cafe. The coffee shop features doughnuts made at Top Pot’s flagship store in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood.

Klebeck said the company strategically opens stores where it knows they have a customer base, and Snohomish County made the cut.

Top Pot was founded in 2002 by Klebeck and his brother. Now the company’s doughnuts are staples in Starbucks bakery cases nationwide.

But Top Pot won’t be without competition at the Mill Creek Town Center. A shop called Frost Doughnuts opened Friday in the complex, just a few blocks away.

Top Pot has been the darling of small business in Seattle since rocketing to doughnut stardom several years ago, fueled by Starbucks’ star power. Top Pot remains small — employing only about 100 people — but it oversees the production of doughnuts for Starbucks stores across the country.

The Cinderella story goes something like this: In 2003, the coffee giant’s founder, Howard Schultz, stopped at Top Pot’s Seattle storefront for a boxed dozen. He liked them so much, he approached Top Pot’s co-founders about selling the doughnuts in his cafes.

The rest, as they say, is happily ever after. Mostly.

As Starbucks reels in the face of economic recession, closing a number of stores and laying off employees, Top Pot hasn’t seen much of a drop in its bottom line, Klebeck said.

Doughnuts and other small indulgences aren’t the kind of things people generally cut from their budget, he pointed out: “It’s still affordable.”

But growth hasn’t come without another set of problems. Earlier this year, several Top Pot investors filed lawsuits in King County Superior Court, alleging their stake in the company was unfairly diminished when Top Pot contracted with Starbucks and merged with Zeitgeist Coffee to form a corporate umbrella called Doughnut Corporation of America.

A judge dismissed several causes of action in the case of one investor in April.

Klebeck said Top Pot doesn’t have plans for rapid expansion, though he’d like to eventually open flagship stores in large cities such as New York, San Francisco — possibly Austin.

But the company is proceeding with caution, waiting for the right locations.

“You can’t just stamp them out one after another,” Klebeck said. “You could, but that wouldn’t be a Top Pot.”

He wants to incorporate existing architectural elements into new stores, and he is especially interested in historic buildings.

“The space dictates the feel,” Klebeck said.

Even the company’s store corner in the Mill Creek University Book Store wasn’t just slapped together from remnants of the store’s former cafe. Shelves had to be built to the right specifications, and a special bakery case was on its way late last week.

The founders of the doughnut company have long had a business relationship with the University Book Store, and Klebeck said it’s not entirely a coincidence that Top Pot’s chief executive officer lives in Mill Creek.

He said his eyes are always open for the right places for expansion — and right now, those places are in the Seattle area.

“We’re very committed to staying home right now, in the Puget Sound,” he said. “We’ve always said we want to be the Dick’s burgers of doughnuts.”

Read Amy Rolph’s small-business blog at www.heraldnet.com/TheStorefront. Contact her at 425-339-3029 or arolph@heraldnet.com.

More in Herald Business Journal

Stan Jones (left) father of Vice Chairwoman Teri Gobin, gets a handshake from Jared Parks while Herman Williams Sr. hugs Bonnie Juneau (right) after the Tulalip Tribes and Quil Ceda Creek Casino held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino Hotel on Tuesday at the Tulalip Reservation. The casino hotel will be built on 16 acres of ancestral tribal land and will feature a main casino that will showcase as many as 1,500 slot machines. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Tulalips break ground on new Quil Ceda Creek Casino Hotel

A 150-room hotel was added to what is now a $140 million project in Tulalip.

Teddy, an English bulldog, models Zentek Clothing’s heat regulating dog jacket. (Ian Terry / The Herald)
Everett clothing company keeps your dog cool and stylish

Zentek uses space-age fabrics to moderate the temperature of pets and now humans.

Trudeau snubs Boeing, unveils plan to buy used Aussie jets

Trudeau will be assessing the impact fighter jet contracts have on his country’s economy.

Boeing raises dividend 20%, continues stock buyback program

The manufacturer said it has repurchased $9.2 billion worth of its shares this year.

Everett engineers learn lessons from Mexico City catastrophe

Structural scientists went to help after the September earthquake there and studied the damage.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Merger would make Providence part of health care behemoth

Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health are said to be talking. Swedish would also be affected.

Hospital companies merge as insurers encroach on their turf

An anticipated deal between Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension is only the latest.

DaVita to sell off medical groups including The Everett Clinic

Another round of health care consolidation means The Everett Clinic could soon get new ownership.

Engine trouble hits Air New Zealand’s 787 Dreamliners

A Rolls-Royce engine was shut down and was afterward found to be seriously damaged.

Most Read