Driving down Sprinkle Road in Kalamazoo, a familiar fragrance floats in through the car window. It is fresh, fluffy, and filled with sweetness. What else can you do but pull into Sweetwater’s Donut Mill and give in to the only craving that will satiate your palate? Those crispy, creamy, and gooey donuts.
John Garner, the founder of Sweetwater’s, started his donut days as an owner of a national franchise donut operation. According to Garner, he was required to follow strict recipes for donut making. He believed he could “make a better donut.”
But what is it that makes their donuts so special? How do they “make a better donut?”
Garner makes his donuts without preservatives and maintains that only the highest quality ingredients go into his donuts. Due to the lack of preservatives, Sweetwater’s donuts are best within the first 24 hours – but there is little chance there will be any left nearly that long.
Garner opened Sweetwater’s in 1983 at their Stadium Drive location. And since that day, his little donut shop has made a great big noise.
Given their location near Western Michigan University, they grew not only a local fanbase, but that of students and parents of students from all around Michigan and from other parts of the country.
In 2006, Sweetwater’s was featured in the film “Kalamazoo?” And their following just seemed to grow from there. The following year, MSN-City Guide named them in the “Top 10 Donuts in America.” In the years since, Sweetwater’s has made it on to a number of top-10 donuts lists from various publications.
According to Garner, their website received visits from all over the country, and from around the globe, the day the story broke.
And for a local donut shop, Sweetwater’s maintains the importance of connecting to their customers through their website. They receive hundreds of emails from people who have moved away and miss their delectable donuts.
In 2008, the Kalamazoo Gazette followed the story of a female soldier stationed in Iraq who had a craving for those very donuts. Unable to ship their donuts overseas, Sweetwater’s sent over the necessary supplies and instructions on how to make their donuts.
Sweetwater’s has had so many requests to ship donuts that recently they have been working Michigan State University’s School of Packaging Engineering to come up with a container to do just that.
Sweetwater’s makes all of the classics, plus a number of specialty donuts. Some of their specialties are based on popular candy bars such as Snickers, Mounds, and Heath. But if they don’t have what you’re looking for, they also take special requests. If they have the ingredients, they’ll make it.
You can check out Sweetwater’s on Facebook, or stop in to one of their three locations.
~Jeremy Beyma, Feature Writer