Andrea Spears and her mother, Myrtle Jackson, opened Not Jus Donuts in December 2000 and operated out of the East End bakery on Dowling steadily but quietly for 13 years, and not without difficulties along the way. That was until recently, when Buddy Valastro of TLC’s Cake Boss—a reality show featuring Valastro's family bakery in New Jersey—took a sudden interest in their small family bakery.
In July, Spears received an email from TLC. The network was scouting for struggling bakeries to be featured on Bakery Boss, a version of Extreme Home Makeover just for bakeries to be hosted by Valastro. After the network interviewed several local bakeries, only two were chosen—and Not Jus Donuts was one of them.
"I watch [Cake Boss] show all the time," Spears says, though her own bakery was struggling to achieve the same sort of success as Valastro's. Spears’s business hit hard times a few years ago. She couldn't advertise, because she didn't have the money. Even a paycheck became an uncertainty, but Spears says giving up pay was a sacrifice she and her mother made to keep the doors open.
Recently, the summer heat proved another burden.
"When the Cake Boss people came through here, our A/C was out," says Spears. "It was 115 degrees in here that day, and we were still open and trying to bake and work in that heat." Because of the heat, food was going to waste, souring the business.
But the cakes that Spears was baking didn't need any makeovers—no surprise since Not Jus Donuts's recipes have been in the family for generations. The dozens of customers who waited hours outside the bakery for its grand re-opening Wednesday testified that the cakes and cookies were just as moist and sweet as before.
"I describe that as food yummy, delicious, and chocolate," said 8-year-old August, who came with her mother, Sherry Easterling. Easterling says they'd dropped by the bakery two or three times, and the new décor is more open and appealing than before.
"Mom, can we come here again?" August cried. "We’ll come back for another 10 years until we die."
The two ordered strawberry shortcake, macadamia nut cookies, coconut pie, and a chocolate bundt cake. Spears says Not Jus Donuts is known for several Southern sweets, with sweet potato pie at the top of that list.
Oddly, ever since Not Jus Donuts moved from its former location four doors down, the donuts weren’t leaving the shelves as quickly as the cakes anymore. Instead, sweet potato pie, sour cream pound cake, oatmeal raisin cookies, and pound cake became the bakery's best selling items—but they're not abandoning the donuts just yet.
"Now with Buddy, he’s given us more ideas how to market our donuts and sell our donuts," Spears says. Being showcased on TV surely won't hurt, either. "The national exposure is going to help take the bakery to the next level, and the exposure is something we have been hoping for."
Not Jus Donuts is also looking to make a name in the wedding cake industry. With Valastro and the Bakery Boss team's assistance, the bakery made a beautiful cake that was on display during the re-opening. Between the new wedding cakes, the new decor, and the new A/C, Spears says Valastro's visit will put them on the map.
"A lot of our community people who live out here don’t know we’re here. And now with our awning and our signs, they can see us. I think more of the people in the community can support us now, and in turn it can give us a better opportunity to serve the community."
New episodes of Bakery Boss will premiere December 2 at 8 p.m. on TLC.