Daylight Donuts is celebrating 50 years in Sapulpa this year. Started in 1969 as DJ’s Daylight Donuts, Dan and Jo Black operated the original location on Bryan Street for a solid 25 years before selling it to Tom and Mary Jane Maple, who ran it for another 10 years before it sold again to the Ward family, who still operate the shop today, 15 years later.
Unlike the previous owners though, Jason Ward and his family might be responsible for most of the forward momentum the landmark donut brand has brought to Sapulpa.
Ward originally worked for Daylight Donuts in regional sales, serving the shops all around the area. He picked up lots of tips and tricks of the trade that he felt gave him an advantage when he opened his store, located in the Sunset Strip on State Highway 66 (formerly New Sapulpa Road.)
He must’ve done something right because he eventually sold that location and moved into the one on Bryan street in Sapulpa proper, and he’s been there ever since. Well…more or less.
In 2012, he and his daughter Virginia—by then a manager at the shop, were sitting in the parking lot of the once-popular-now-deceased donut shop at the corner of Lincoln and Mission streets, counting cars. Whatever the number was, it must’ve been a good one, because in 2013, they opened up their second location—the first with a drive-thru—and it’s been going doing well ever since.
A short while later, inspiration struck again, and the Wards moved outside Sapulpa to open up a different kind of donut shop, this one called “The Donut Hole” in trendy Brookside, Tulsa.
Now, as Jason and his family celebrate the 50th year of Sapulpa’s Daylight Donuts, they’re turning their attention back to the original location and making new plans. Big plans.
When folks noticed the houses adjacent to the shop being bulldozed down and the space being dug up and turned over, it was obvious that Ward was fixing what has been a pain point for the Bryan location for years—it’s lack of parking. Still, two empty lots? That was a lot of parking. Maybe they were adding a drive-thru to this store as well?
Yes and no. The Wards are not just adding parking. They’re not just adding a drive-thru; they’re adding a building. As in, they’re building a brand new Daylight Donuts.
At 1833sqft, the new facility will be 800sqft larger than the current one and feature not only a drive-thru but an expanded dining room and for the first time, outdoor patio seating.
Ward, for his part, is excited. “We thought about adding parking. Thought about the drive-thru, but it didn’t get my heart racing,” he said.
Equipment upgrades will also be on the menu for the new shop, which Ward says he’s hoping to open up at some point in the next two years. As he and his daughter Virginia See, along with her new son Dax joined Sapulpa Times this week, they reminisced about how far they’d come in the past 15 years and what they’d be able to accomplish with the new building.
Hopefully, not everything will get replaced. “We know some customers would hate it if we got rid of our ice maker,” See said, referring to the old but reliable standalone pellet ice maker that is a sure hit with some of the regulars.
So how did they get to where they are? Have they had any missteps or regrets?
Ward tells Sapulpa Times that for a while, they weren’t so sure that the new place on Brookside was going to make it. “I said in the beginning that we weren’t going to use the other stores to support that one, that it had to stand on its own.”
But Brookside is a lot more expensive than Sapulpa, and the foot traffic isn’t what they’d initially thought it would be. “It’s definitely picked up since The Gathering Place opened, though,” See said.
But what could they do in the meantime? “We got back to serving classics. No gimmicks,” Ward said. “We leveled our hours with the rest of our stores, and got back to applying our business model, and it started to get profitable again.”
That tried-and-true “business model” is about as simple as it gets: quality and friendliness. “If quality and fresh ingredients are number one, then customer service is like, one-b; you just can’t have one without the other,” Ward says.
Rounding out the top of the list is cleanliness, followed by what Ward says is the linchpin for any small business: consistency.
“If you want your customers to be consistent, you have to be consistent,” Ward says. “If you’re not going to be open when you say you’re going to be open, and consistently put out fresh, quality products, you just aren’t going to last. Customers will stop coming.”
Ward might say that consistency is key, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying new things or changing with the times. At their Brookside location, for example, they’ve experimented with vegan ingredients (“They’re a pain because Daylight doesn’t carry those things, so you have to source your ingredients from somewhere else.”). At the new shop, he’s looking to step up their coffee presence with a new espresso machine, and are looking at staying open past their normal closing time of 11 am to accommodate those folks who just want a latte.
As great as it is to be closing the books on fifty years of business in Sapulpa, Ward is more excited about what the future holds for this homegrown success story. “It gets my heart racing.”