Riverside’s New Doughnut Shop
Proud Mary’s Donuts recently opened its doors in Riverside Square and is a space for the community to gather over a sweet treat.
We sat down with Ruarri Miller, co-owner of Proud Mary’s Donuts on why this new, made-to-order doughnut shop is calling Riverside Square home.
How did the idea for this business come about? Why Riverside?
In 2010, my family and I moved to Rhode Island, and five years later, we moved to Riverside from the East Side. My wife, Ashley Lakin, started working at the community action center in the area. My day in and day out is working as a general contractor and real estate investor. At the time, we were hunting around for the next project to work on. So, we bought a house on the Terrace. Surprisingly, we discovered that Riverside is an amazing place. It is an unbelievable place for families to live and the quality of life and community here is just so rich. It truly took us by surprise. We’ve lived in a lot of cool places all over the country and we honestly don’t think any of them compare to the quality of life here.
After living in the area for six months, I noticed the building Proud Mary’s is now in was for sale. I don’t know who started the culture and reputation of this community here in Riverside, but it is very strong. However, we saw that there was really no place in town to strengthen the community even further, so, we decided to expand upon what is already a fantastic culture here and provide the people of Riverside with a place where community and cultural interaction can happen. When you build a place that is intentionally designed for people to run into each other and spur spontaneous interaction, good things can happen. That is what we set out to create here. Something that would complement the area, but also a foundation for Riverside Square to lift up.
So, you are all about community, culture and the growth of Riverside?
This has always been our vision. Though we invested a lot of our own money and savings into the business, our dream was accelerated exponentially by the city of East Providence. The small loan program was truly instrumental for us and I believe it to be so for other entrepreneurs to establish a foothold in the area as well. East Providence also commissioned the Riverside Marketability Study and because it costs several thousand dollars to conduct a report like this, most small business owners couldn’t even think to do it. It is truly helpful because the report laid out the spending that happens in Riverside. Right now, within five miles of Riverside Square, there is about $40 million in retail sales that leave here and are brought to other communities. We have to ask ourselves: Why are we letting the value in our community go somewhere else? Let’s reinvest it here for our community to grow and flourish even more. We believe there is a huge opportunity to revive town centers like Riverside with a curated food and beverage experience and this is the way to do so.
What is the meaning behind the name of Proud Mary?
Mary is inspired by a number of strong women that have shaped us through the years. More broadly, Proud Mary’s is a homage to all working-class moms who get it done for their families. The shop is dedicated to all the bad ass women that shape our families and communities. The name Mary is also partly inspired by mom whose name is also Mary. She is the core of the family who makes everything work and is a total renaissance woman. There is also Mary of Riverside who walks up and down the streets of town. When I first saw her walking in a blinding snow storm one winter, I realized that she is such a strong woman who lives in her own world and does exactly what she wants to do – she doesn’t apologize for anything. We hope that people can not only see the same qualities within our staff as we are hardworking people, but we hope that Mary as an imaginary, fictitious person will help them see these amazing qualities in someone they know, too.
We started thinking about what we could make and sell on a large scale and eventually backed our way into doughnuts. They are something that we could create that is conductive to the space because they are cost effective and can be made into a high-quality product. Here at Proud Mary’s, our doughnut machine can spit out about 440 donuts per hour or 3,500 doughnuts per day. However, creating a high quality product is really important to us and we set the bar high for quality food that is affordable for everyone.
What kinds of doughnuts can be found on the menu?
We wanted to create a made-to-order, fresh doughnut scene. People dine out for an experience and I think coming here is a fun experience. You can build your own doughnut creation with any number of toppings and glazes, though we also offer Mary’s Favs combination ideas including the bacon bomb, Townie, s’mores and more.
Do you plan on changing menu options by season?
Yes. We plan on reaching out to local places. For example, we have discussed reaching out to Sweet Berry Farm for blueberries to make blueberry glaze for rotating specials. We may experiment with apple cider doughnuts in the fall, too.
Any future plans for the shop?
A year from now, we are actually hoping to open a burrito shop next door, with a doorway between both shops that will connect for people to enjoy both doughnuts and burritos. We have just started to offer online ordering and we are looking at opportunities to eventually do bulk retail. I could also see us buying another building off of the main street to run three or four more doughnut machines to create even more doughnuts for people.