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District Doughnut storefront taking shape for summer opening

Christine Schaefer, District Doughnut's executive chef, wants to make "the best doughnuts we can"

Schaefer, left, and Greg Menna, who used to share a half-dozen doughnuts in one sitting with the shop's third partner, Juan Pablo Segura (not pictured)

Just a few doors up from the southern endpoint of Barracks Row, a passel of 20-something entrepreneurs is placing its bets on an amped-up version of the perennial American favorite: the doughnut.
Partners Greg Menna, Christine Schaefer and Juan Pablo Segura contend that District Doughnut is ready to embark on its own 1,200 square-foot storefront after working out of Union Kitchen for about a year. The team has leased space at 749 8th Street SE and hired Raymond Saba, who built the Red Hen, among others, as its general contractor.
Standing in the workspace, Menna and Schaefer reflect upon their plans to elevate the fried-dough discs long a staple of office life and Sunday-morning breakfast outings to another level altogether.
“Every city and town has a place that makes doughnuts,” says Menna, 26, who graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2010. The doughnut shop is a community touchpoint and a place to bond: as teens, Menna and Segura, who met at The Heights, a prep school for boys in Potomac, Md., routinely shared six doughnuts at one sitting. “We’re trying to provide the new American doughnut.”
Menna admires the systems Krispy Kreme perfected, including conveyor belts sliding by shopfront windows to entice customers and neon signs indicating that doughnuts are fresh out of the oven, sealing the deal and usually turning a walk-past into a paying customer. “But ours will not be made by machine.”
Initially “I wanted to do more high-end things” than doughnuts, admits Schafer, 27,  the executive chef for the eatery as well as its graphic designer. Trained at the Cordon Bleu in Pittsburgh, Schafer was excited when Menna and Segura indicated they were open to letting her creativity run wild in terms of what her doughnuts could be.
“I don’t go around looking at doughnut recipes,” she says, citing District Doughnut’s  cannoli doughnut and caramel apple streusel doughnut as examples of the bakery’s outside-the-lines thinking.
Schafer expects to have a set of a dozen of more everyday flavors on offer, ranging from $2-$3 apiece, then three or four seasonal offerings each week.
District Doughnut will also feature coffee from local small-batch roasters, including Café Amouri in Vienna and Commonwealth Joe in Arlington, says Menna. District Doughnut will also continue to offer delivery around the District.
Between the forthcoming artisanal doughnuts, the birthday cake-flavored frozen yogurt at 32 Below and the lemon bars at Springmill Bakery, the 700 block of 8th Street SE is a veritable playground of sugary delights, despite Hello Cupcake’s outpost there closing just weeks ago.
Unlike cupcakes, “you can’t easily make doughnuts at home,” says Menna. “You can’t do it willy-nilly.
“Our vision is to make the best doughnut we can.”

Read more articles by Amy Rogers Nazarov.

Amy Rogers Nazarov is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist with more than 25 years experience as a staff reporter and a freelance writer, covering technology, adoption, real estate, and lifestyle topics from food & drink to home organizing. Her byline has appeared in Cooking Light, The Washington Post, Slate, Washingtonian, The Writer, Smithsonian, The Washington Post Express, The Baltimore Examiner, The Sacramento Bee, Cure, The Washington Times, Museum, and many other outlets. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors and tweets at @WordKitchenDC.
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