Purple Glaze Donuts is a must-stop for anyone visiting Asbury Park, but locals know that Jacki Sharpe’s family owned business serves up more than sweet treats. Sharpe caters to her community, providing alternatives that customers ask for and supporting organizations and events with fundraisers and donations of donuts. While it’s hard to think of the town without these delicious creations, Sharpe had a whole career before opening her shop in 2015. When she retired she could have hit the beach and never looked back, instead she decided to finally pursue her passion for baking. You know how the story ends, but take a minute to see how Purple Glaze Donuts became what it is today and why it’s never too late to make your dreams a reality.
Give us a brief description of your business.
Purple Glaze Donuts is a neighborhood donut shop located just a couple blocks from the beach and boardwalk in downtown Asbury Park. We make artisan cake donuts that are freshly fried throughout the day and topped-to-order. Our regular menu includes “Fancy & Filled” and “Plain & Simple” selections, as well as 5-7 specials daily. We also carry vanilla and chocolate vegan donuts with assorted vegan icings and toppings. Customers eagerly await the “Metal Donut of the Week,” created by Wes, a heavy metal music fan. We also make our own dog cookies and carry Glenda’s Kitchen Gluten-Free donuts and cookies.
How did you get started?
After 25 years as an administrator and adjunct professor in the English Department at County College of Morris, I retired and moved to Asbury Park. There, I decided to pursue my passion for baking and received my Certificate in Pastry Arts from the Culinary Education Center. After graduating, I worked in Wegman’s Bakery to hone my skills and learn production.
In a parallel life, my son Wes was baking at Langosta Lounge and was urging me to open a donut shop. We found a cool space on Summerfield Avenue that we thought would be a perfect fit for our mission as a “neighborhood donut shop.” We opened in May 2015.
What inspires you?
One of the reasons I moved to Asbury Park is because the beach has always been an inspirational place for me. I’m always trying to look at the bigger picture, to do things that are for the greater good and that can help others, not just myself. I am also inspired by a challenge. I try not to be scared away from the “hard stuff.” I am inspired by working through it.
Your story at the Babes in Business meet-up was very inspiring. There were certainly a few detours on your way to the business you have now. How can those who feel like it’s too late to start a business, find their way back to their dreams?
Years ago, in my twenties, I told my mom I regretted not going to college. She said, “Well, go now.” I said, “Geez, I’ll be 28 by the time I finish.” She responded, “You’re going to be 28 anyway, so why not with a college degree.” I eventually did start college at 30 taking evening classes and kept plugging away until I finished my Master’s Degree at 49! The point of the story is, it’s never too late to achieve your goals. You are the only person that can make your dreams come true.
How do you use your business to support the community? Why do you feel this is important?
When we started the business, we spent a lot of time discussing our vision and our mission. We wanted Purple Glaze Donuts to be a neighborhood shop, not just to enjoy the tourist trade that the summer brings. We wanted to be a place where all residents of Asbury Park could come and know that if they needed our support, we would help them as best we could. We have had fundraisers at our shop to support organizations that are near and dear to our hearts. We donate donuts for various functions all the time.
I believe in public service and am a member of the Downtown Business Committee, the City Business Committee, and am on the Board of the Asbury Park Chamber of Commerce. My husband is on the Asbury Park Board of Education and is on the Board of the Eastern Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce. I believe it’s important to know what is happening in the City and try to help institute change for the better. I want ALL businesses in Asbury Park to be successful. It does not help anyone to have empty buildings in the City.
How does your family play a part in your business?
Purple Glaze Donuts is a family owned business. My husband manages the financial end of the business and I’m in the trenches. He retired last year from his position at Brookdale Community College and it has been great for me since he is now doing a lot of the heavy lifting and lugging like running to Restaurant Depot, Costco and Country Clean. Honestly, I could not do it if it wasn’t for his support. It’s great because we both share the same vision for Purple Glaze.
My son, Wesley, is a manager at the shop and works with me every day. It was his idea to open a donut shop. He is a master at making donuts and absolutely loves engaging with our customers. He is also a heavy metal music fan and comes up with a Metal Donut of the Week (each and every week). I also have to mention Dan. I met him at pastry school and he has been with us since Day 1. I tell everyone Wes is my right hand and Dan is my left. He is like family to me as well.
How do you balance life and business?
The balancing act is a tough one as anyone who owns a business will tell you. As someone who, for most of her life, worked in jobs where I had weekends, evenings and holidays off as well as paid vacation and sick time, it’s been an adjustment. Sunday night is my new Friday night. Tuesday is my new Saturday at the beach. It’s all good though, and I have real respect for individuals who work in the service industry and appreciate how tough it is.
Your brand is very approachable. What advice do you have for those trying to find a way to connect to their following?
Don’t try to be something you are not. We are down-to-earth individuals who appreciate a good product and love people. When you walk into our tiny shop, you get that vibe immediately. Excellent customer service and treating all your customers in a kind and friendly manner is the best way to connect and get them to come back.
Asbury Park is a very dog-friendly town. Many of our customers have dogs and walk by the shop. As a result, Wes and Dan decided to make dog cookies one day. It has been so successful, it’s difficult to keep up with the need. We also know we have a lot of vegan customers. Dan developed a recipe for delicious vegan donuts, and we now have an entire menu of vegan selections. Get to know your customers. Listen to what they want and provide it.
How do you use social media to further your business goals?
Social media is a great way to reach out to your current customers and gain new ones. It gives them an opportunity to check out your brand and see what kinds of specials you are offering every day. Facebook and Instagram are free so it would be foolish not to post to increase your customer base. I try to do a couple of posts each day. I do all the social media myself so sometimes, the shop gets so busy that I don’t have as much time as I would like to. It’s great that my customers do IG stories and posts so I can repost their material. I spend money to sponsor or boost my posts when I am running specials as well. It’s important to note that you cannot just rely on social media to attract new customers.
What are some of your favorite Instagram accounts that you follow?