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East Lyme doughnut shop celebrates 50 years

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East Lyme — On a windy Saturday morning, a woman paused before opening the door to Flanders Donut and Bake Shop. Three people who just parked their cars in the lot followed her lead and immediately filed in line behind her outside the shop.

“It’s a little tight in there,” she said to the person behind her, gazing through the store’s window at about 10 people standing inside the 5-by-20-foot customer area getting their order filled, paying or pondering at the variety of baked goods available. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the shop had required masks and limited entry to only three customers at a time but now people just use their own judgment.

The shop at 327 Flanders Road in East Lyme and the Terracciano family are celebrating its 50th year in business.

Some customers have made the shop part of their routine:

Joseph Ward of Groton said he and his wife, Regina, stop in every Saturday after she has her hair done in town.

After shopping at Costco, Debbie Campbell, 63, of Deep River always swings by to purchase a dozen doughnuts. “If I come home and I just got one or two, it’s hell to pay,” she said.

A lot of people stop there on their way to work at the Millstone nuclear power plant in Waterford, noted Ken Kirkman, 74, of Waterford. He and others appreciate that the bake shop is open at 4 a.m., as he reports to work at 5 a.m. "That's a plus for me," he said. 

Fiona Clark, 11, of East Lyme said she and her mother pick up a dozen doughnuts for the family about once a month. She likes the chocolate and glazed varieties.

Current owner Greg Terracciano, 58, and his family represent four generations of bakers that began with his grandfather Anthony Terracciano’s shop, Tony’s Bakery in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1940. His grandparents purchased Randy’s Bakery in New London in 1951 and opened Terrace Italian & French Bakery during the early 1960s at 204 Boston Post Road in Waterford, where a day care center and medical office now are located. Greg’s grandmother closed the Waterford bakery in 1971, paving the way for his parents, Ingrid and Andy, to open Flanders Donut and Bake Shop in 1972.

Greg Terracciano has owned the bakery for the past 20 years. The shop is open for 12 hours a day, so he has to make sure he has enough doughnuts and baked goods. He typically arrives at 2 a.m. to start baking but will start even earlier, at midnight, when there are large orders. Organizations such as The Hartford Marathon Foundation have ordered as many as 150 dozen — or 1,800 — doughnuts for special events, and the Coast Guard Academy’s parent organization regularly puts in large monthly orders.

“He’s a good baker, just like his father,” Ingrid Terracciano, 86, said about her son Greg. “It’s personal. Everything is baked with love."

She remembers having her four young children — 2-year-old son Tony, 7-year-old twin daughters Gina and Tina and 8-year-old Greg — in tow when she and her husband, Andy, opened the Flanders Donut and Bake Shop. Tony used to make a mess and fall asleep on a large bag of flour in the kitchen, she said.

Ingrid still works at the bakery on Tuesdays and Fridays. “The only reason why I come in is for the customers,” she said. “I like to work, too. I’m a workaholic.”

Greg Terracciano remembers when he was a child, his father would do all the baking by himself. At 8 years old, Greg helped his father by washing dishes on weekends. His sisters Gina and Tina were already waiting on customers and his brother Tony also worked there at a young age. By age 14, Greg was able to do the books and write out checks.

“Most of the nieces and nephews have all worked here,” Greg said. He said his four kids, his sister Tina, his brother Tony, his son AJ, his brother-in-law and other family members also have pitched in to work at the bakery.

“That’s what you need when you’re a small mom-and-pop bakery. You can be successful that way,” he added. He said his 24-year-old son Danny is at the bakery every day and will run the shop in the future.

“During the pandemic I thought we would shut down. We never did. We just kept getting busier,” Greg Terracciano said, noting what an advantage it was to have a drive-thru. Despite resistance at first, the town eventually allowed the Terraccianos to add the drive-thru in 2008.

“My father was the best baker I ever knew,” Greg Terracciano said. Andy Terracciano died seven years ago. “He learned from the old-timers. I’ll take that over any school any day. You can’t find them anymore. They bring the intangibles."

'Best doughnuts in town'

"It's pretty busy here. It's like this every day. No shift change, just the four of us at the counter," store manager Gina Terracciano, 57, said as she whizzed by with a full tray of Bismarks — doughnuts filled with jelly and Boston cream and then rolled in confectioner's sugar. She and three other customer service staffers each wear a headset so they can be in touch with the baker in the kitchen, the drive-thru customers and one another.

"I can help who's next," the customer server staffers announce as they complete their orders. They move fluidly in the tight space behind the baked goods counter, dodging one another, filling boxes of six or 12 doughnuts, bagels or pastries, bagging the occasional breakfast sandwich or pouring a coffee.

"We've been coming here since they were opened in the '70s," said Linda Berard, 59, of East Lyme. "We used to come right before school. It's just been a staple for years. They have the best doughnuts in town." She and her husband stopped by to pick up glazed doughnuts "and usually something else just for the fun of it" for breakfast.

Flanders features 40 varieties of doughnuts. Eleven of them are yeast-raised, 18 are old-fashioned cake-based and 11 of them are filled. The shop also has two gourmet doughnuts: the Reese’s peanut butter and maple bacon flavors. Each month it offers a doughnut of the month; May’s is the orange juice cake glazed.

The shop also offers 15 types of bagels, a host of pastries and breakfast sandwiches.

Greg Terracciano said there was a time when the shop also sold 80 birthday cakes a week but that shifted once the grocery stores opened bake shops and specialty cake shops appeared.

On an average day from Monday through Thursday, Flanders receives 400 customers; that number rises to 500 on Fridays and 600 on Saturdays. Closing on Sundays offers the Terraccianos much-needed rest after an energetic week.

Greg Terracciano’s only concerns are making sure that his baked goods case never runs out of doughnuts, that he gets enough sleep and that he finds enough help at the bakery. He remembers when major competition arrived in 1994, just a few doors down on Flanders Road.

“We got mystery letters. They said 'Dunkin’ Donuts is going to put you out of business,'” he said. “We’re still here after 50 years."

From left, Ingrid Terracciano, her son, Greg, grandson Danny and daughter, Gina, outside their family business, Flanders Donuts & Bake Shop, on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in East Lyme. The family is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the business.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
From left, Ingrid Terracciano, her son, Greg, grandson Danny and daughter, Gina, outside their family business, Flanders Donuts & Bake Shop, on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in East Lyme. The family is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the business. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Business snapshot

What: Flanders Donut and Bake Shop, which is celebrating 50 years in business

Where: 327 Flanders Road, East Lyme

Hours: Monday – Saturday, 4 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Website: flandersbakery.com

Contact: (860) 739-6320

 

 

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