Monday, November 23, 2009

Apathy Is No Way To Run a Business

Part of the fun of writing an Internet blog is seeing the diversity of readers who read what you have to write. Some readers find my blog through links from other sites or through aggregate websites that "suggest" links that they might like to check out. If the reader likes what they see, often times my blog is bookmarked in their web browser or my RSS feed is added to their newsreader so that they only have to check back when I have published something new. To those readers out there that fit into this category, thank you.

But there is another category of reader who exists that I am equally interested in, the drive-by reader. This is someone who finds my blog through the use of one of the Internet search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, or a more social network savvy search engine such as They may only click on the link provided in the results and read one entry, or they may stick around for a while and decide to read other entries that pique their interest. Either way, one of the pieces of information that gets logged by the web server is the keywords that were used to find the link to my blog in the first place.

A recent example was a Google search on the phrase "donuts wooster ohio". This led them to my entry on Lerch's Donuts. Curious as to where the link showed up on the results of that Google search, I clicked on it as well. It turns out that the Google search engine decided to suggest donut shops not only in the Wooster area, but also in the Akron area as well. As I looked over the list, I noticed a donut shop in Barberton that I had never heard of before, Hiss Bakery. Located at 186 2nd Street NW, Barberton, OH 44203, they can be reached at 330-745-4222. According to their website, they are closed on Mondays, open from 6 am - 5 pm on Tuesdays through Saturdays, and open from 6 am - 12:30 pm on Sundays.

As it turned out, I was heading to my grandmother's condo today anyway, and the path from my door to hers had me heading right past Hiss Bakery, so I decided to stop in and check them out. After parking my car on the side of the road, I soon discovered the location of the bakery from the sign out front:

Once inside, I discovered another customer waiting at the front of the line. I took my chances and quickly snapped two photos of the display cases. First, the display case housing mostly donuts:

And a second display case housing unfinished cakes and some cookies:

Shortly thereafter, a woman came from around the back and filled the order of the customer in front of me. After she left (and there was no one else in the store but me), I asked the woman behind the counter if she would describe the assortment of donuts they had so that I knew what my options were. Now a keen business person would be clued in by this kind of request and think that perhaps this was a first-time customer and engage them in such a manner as to really sell not only the product, but also the business.

Sadly, this was not the course of action the counter person took today. Giving a slightly apathetic sigh, she rattled off the types of donuts, not really even pausing between them to give me a second to process the information. When I inquired about one of the donuts in the middle of the line-up, she weakly mumbled her response, "I went through them all from one end to the other." Not to be deterred by lousy customer service, I made up my mind and decided to give four of their donuts a try.

Now, what came next is certainly not a problem that I've experienced only at Hiss Bakery. However, given the chipper attitude that I had received so far, it certainly didn't help matters much. Instead of giving me a box for my selections, she placed four donuts, three of which were glazed, into this bag:

Gentle reader, I hear you asking, "But Tom, why would this be a problem?" If the bag were full of non-glazed donuts, I would completely agree that this wouldn't be a problem. However, when you stick glazed donuts into a bag where they are touching each other, even if the glaze is set, the glaze will "melt" enough to cause the donuts to fuse together. Any sense of fit and finish that once existed on top of the donut will be ruined. Read on to see a perfect example.

Since I was already en route to my grandmother's condo, I decided to taste and photograph the donuts there. This also meant that I had access to a nice serrated knife that I could use to cleanly bisect each donut before tasting. Before going into specifics on each donut, I would like to say that all of the donuts were generally pretty good. They weren't stale or greasy and the yeast-raised dough was particularly light. Now, let's get down to the individual donuts.

Here was a shot of the apple-filled donut:

And a shot of the interior:

The cinnamon on top worked well, similar to sprinkling cinnamon on top of a drink. Engaging both the senses of smell and taste, the apple filling in the donut was quite good. I had asked if the fillings were made from scratch when I was at the bakery, and the woman indicated that they were. In this case, I believed her. The only real criticism I had of this donut was the lack of filling. Thinking it was an isolated incident, I moved on to my next donut.

Here was a shot of the next donut, the lemon curd-filled:

The glaze on this donut was more or less ruined because the top of the donut had fused to the bottom of the custard-filled chocolate glazed donut. After trying to carefully pry them apart, I gave up and simply separated the two. To my dismay, most of the lemon glaze stuck to the bottom of the custard-filled donut.

Here is a shot of the interior of the lemon curd-filled:

Apparently, the lack of filling trend was to continue with this donut as well. I tasted the lemon curd and it had a nice balance between tart and sweet. Sadly, the lemon glaze on top didn't contribute much towards the flavor since most of it was now removed. Overall, this donut was merely average.

Next up was the custard-filled chocolate glazed donut:

And a shot of the interior:

After discovering a meager amount of filling in the first two donuts, I was happy to see that the custard-filled runneth over with creamy goodness. The custard was good, having more of a vanilla pudding feel to it than an actual custard. Traditionally custards contain eggs, which would make the resulting product a bit more yellow, but I was okay with this the way it was. Of all the donuts, this one was probably my favorite.

Finally, I decided to wrap up the tasting with a non-filled donut, the cinnamon donut:

And a shot of the interior:

While definitely still a yeast-based donut, it occurred to me that this was not a traditionally shaped donut, but similar to a cinnamon roll that had been deep-fat fried instead of baked. The flavor was decent, neither being too sweet nor too redolent with spice. This wasn't my favorite version of the cinnamon roll (that honor being taken by Johnnie's Pastry of Massillon), but it seemed to fit in with the quality of the other donuts being offered by Hiss Bakery.

After tasting and photographing all that I needed for this entry, I placed the uneaten halves onto one plate and called my grandmother over. I told her to look at the filled donuts and see if she saw anything interesting. She carefully studied them for a moment and said, "With the exception of that one right there, they sure don't like using much filling!" Way to go, grandma! She is always expressing confusion as to what I actually do with the "food thing on your computer" that I am always talking about. Having made a correct analysis of the filling situation with Hiss Bakery, I explained that this was exactly the kind of discovery that I like to share when writing about food. It's about using as many of the senses as possible to fully experience each event.

While the donuts I tried today from Hiss Bakery were very reasonably priced ($0.75 each), overall, they just didn't impress me as much as I had hoped they would. Combined with apathetic customer service, I just don't feel all that good recommending them the next time you need your donut fix. If you happen to be in the area, you may want to check them out, but I wouldn't drive out of my way for them.


BONNIE K said...

Funny that a place that sells donuts with a meager filling, staffed by a mean employee, is called "Hiss."

Tino said...

@Bonnie K: Trust me, it was very tempting to try and fit "Boo" and "Hiss" somewhere in the title of the blog entry. Fortunately, my meds kicked in and I was able to restrain myself.

Mahala said...

I had a similar experience there. I had been told for years about what a "fine" bakery this was, so one day after visiting Al's Corner Restaurant I stopped in. The workers were less than enthusiastic and the product average, hence no reason to return.

Anonymous said...

Leach's in Barberton has very good doughnuts.

It's a unique place - half bakery/half butcher shop. The butcher shop may be a bit basic for a foodie but the quality and prices are outstanding.

Tino said...

@Anonymous: Thanks for the tip on Leach's. I'll check them out the next time I am in Barberton.

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