Seven years ago, Aly Trinh and her husband Kevin lived in Stockton, working in an industrial food warehouse, hoping to start their own business one day. After hearing about a donut shop for sale in Santa Cruz, they quit their jobs and moved to town the next day. As the new owners of Dunlap’s Donuts, Kevin does the baking and Aly manages. Dunlap’s represents much more than a place that serves killer donuts; it’s a dream realized. It’s also become known as a haven, a neighborhood spot with outside-the-box donuts. Aly’s favorite is the drool-worthy crème brûlée, with a torched shell and custard filling. Kevin, meanwhile, is a fan of the s’mores donut, packed with marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey’s chocolate (campfire not included). Then there is an array of customer faves, with the Fruity Pebbles-crusted donut at the top of the list. They also serve delicious housemade breakfast sandwiches. Dunlap’s is open every day, 5:30am-2pm (or until they sell out). Aly spoke about uprooting her life in the name of donuts and the creative key to their success.
Was taking over Dunlap’s worth such a big change in your life?
ALY TRINH: The first two years were tough; we were new to the area, and business didn’t pick up like we thought it would. We didn’t have a large variety of donuts, so that’s when Kevin tried new flavors and creative types based on trends and what tasted good to him. Then people started trying our new specialty donuts and business really picked up. We also improved our recipe, making the donuts softer and fluffier. Now, we feel like part of the community, business is better and we are so happy we came here to do this.
What was your opening day like?
I remember it was the first time I ever had to wake up at 3:30am in my life because I had to be here at 4:30am. But I was also really excited because it was my first day owning something and working for myself. I didn’t even know how to make coffee, bag the donuts correctly, or make the breakfast sandwiches. I had to learn how to run the entire shop in two days. I learned by doing, and I learned really quickly.
3791 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz, 831-475-6447.