DONUTS WERE NOT the first choice for entrepreneur Keith Berry, but they have been making him successful—and happy.
The owner of Paradise Donuts at 1620 SW 6th Ave. was looking for a way to re-enter the restaurant business when he came upon the sweet idea for operating a unique donut shop in Topeka.
“I was in town one day and I went to a donut shop. I was thoroughly disappointed with the donut. I thought, ‘I can do a better job than this,’” Berry said.
Berry had been in the restaurant business before. Back in 2004, he was the owner of a carryout home-style chicken place. He was simultaneously running trucks as an independent contractor for FedEx. Back then, he was running too hard and found himself bogged down with a heart attack at the early age of 38.
“I was running two businesses at the time. I was running myself very thin. I was sleeping about three hours a night. It caught up with me,” Berry said.
Six months of recovery caused him to lose the chicken restaurant. Though he was an entrepreneur at heart, he took a job driving a truck for Frito-Lay for the next 10 years. It was not his ideal job, but it made good money.
“The last three years I spent trying to figure out what I was going to do to get back into the restaurant business,” Berry said.
About the time he had the bad donut shop experience, he also had to take a break from truck driving because of an injury. Berry decided it was time to become a restaurant owner again.
“I started investigating doing the donuts. I found a couple of different products. Paradise was one of the best products on the market. I went with that, and here we are,” Berry said.
Aside from a delicious donut, Berry liked the business model that Paradise offered. It was not as restrictive as a regular franchise. Paradise has a product that has been around since 1967 with 167 stores across the country. However, the company does not require an ongoing royalty fee. The only obligation Berry has is to use the product.
“I wanted something that meant I was more in control of my own business,” Berry said. “You can pay to use their name, since they are a branded name. I chose to use the Paradise name because I liked the name and logo.”
He also knew that although he liked the idea of selling good donuts, he had never made one before in his life. Partnering with Paradise came with excellent training on the products.
“They gave me a five-day training, and on that sixth day we opened. We’ve been going strong ever since,” Berry said.
The donut business is not without its challenges. The hardest thing is finding employees willing to work overnight. They start at midnight and make the donuts fresh every morning. The shop is open from 6 a.m. to noon.
The other challenge is getting people to find the donut shop. Paradise Donuts is located on 6th Street just south of Potwin across from The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus.
“A lot of Topeka doesn’t even know we are here,” Berry said.
Business has been good though, and by the Fall, Berry plans to add another sweet treat to his offerings—ice cream. Adding ice cream to the menu will allow the store to be open later in the day and provide an additional revenue stream. Berry wants to offer 24 flavors of ice cream and make his own waffle cones. They will also be creating ice cream treats with mini-donuts.
“It’s just bringing a variety— something Topeka doesn’t have,” Berry said.
Berry is also planning to expand his Paradise Donuts to a second location somewhere in Topeka by the end of the year. He then hopes to enter the Lawrence market next year.
As an entrepreneur, Berry says he is glad to be back in the business of working for himself. He tries to be consistent with what the store offers, put out a good product, keep the store clean and have good customer service. Berry also finds it important to keep planting seeds that make his business unique. His goal is to have the best donuts in town, and he enjoys when he hears from customers that he’s succeeding.
Offering a product that makes people happy is one of the most satisfying parts of the work.
“Donuts make people happy. I gave up a six-figure job to do this. I’m not making any money now, but I’m the happiest I’ve ever been,” Berry said.