It’s no secret that Richmond is a collaborative city with a tendency to pool ideas for the greater good. In the spirit of collaboration, what happens when Richmond favorites Sugar Shack Donuts and Blue Bee Cider team up to create something delicious? Apple cider donuts happen and customers can’t get enough of the unique flavor.
“Blue Bee Cider is legit and makes a killer batter,” says Sugar Shack Donuts owner Ian Kelley. “They’re also a great local company and we always want to push the privately owned small guys to the front of the pack.”
Blue Bee Cider, Virginia’s first (and only) urban cidery, is located in Richmond’s Old Manchester District. Blue Bee produces ciders from its urban orchard on a seasonal basis, pressing apples when they’re ripe and fermenting them over the winter for spring sales. Sugar is never added and ciders are never watered down. Instead, raw juice is used and fermented straight from the press.
“Small businesses need to get outside their four walls to stay fresh. Collaborations are a great way to do that—they allow us to increase our reach to new customers and create new things,” says Courtney Mailey, owner and cidermaker at Blue Bee Cider.
“One of the best things about our collaboration with Blue Bee is the amount of people we bring together,” says Kelley. “Blue Bee has customers who have no clue what Sugar Shack is and we have customers who weren’t aware Richmond has its own cidery. With this collaboration we’re able to push customers back and forth. It’s fantastic.”
Sugar Shack Donuts is more than a morning stop for donuts and coffee. It’s a unique twist on a donut shop with flavors rotating every 10 minutes and no set menu. Also on the menu are milkshakes and the result of another collaboration: this time with Baltimore-based Zeke’s coffee. “We exclusively use them for all our coffee and they roast specifically for us when we call,” explains Kelley. A new downtown location, coming soon, will focus on coffee but still feature their signature donuts.
“We love collaborations,” says Kelley. “Richmond is a city that is creative but also very collaborative—you see it daily in the local bars that carry Virginia craft beers to support the local scene. It’s all about bringing people together, both on the business level and as customers. That desire to give back and join forces is what makes our city strong.”
The collaboration between Blue Bee Cider and Sugar Shack Donuts began in October and has remained a Richmond favorite. “We have a lot of customers who take one bite of their apple cider donut and just exclaim, ‘This is the most amazing donut I’ve ever had!’ right there in the shop,” notes Kelley. “It’s a great feeling knowing our customers are enjoying the final product of a local collaboration.”