Kittanning doughnut shop helps disabled adults get work experience
A vacation trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina provided sweet inspiration for Barb Goldinger of Kittanning.
She and her daughter Megan, 22, who has Down syndrome, sampled custom-made cake doughnuts during their trip.
“We loved the concept and decided to open up a shop,” says Barb Goldinger. “Megan was trying to find a job and she could not find a job due to no supportive employment opportunities in our area.”
Goldinger quit her full-time medical career, immersing herself and several family members into Funky Monkey Donuts on Route 422 in Kittanning, in November.
“Megan loves monkeys, so we incorporated a monkey in our name,” Goldinger says.
Funky Monkey Donuts brings a new business concept to rural Armstrong County — specializing in freshly made-to-order cake doughnuts, with the customer selecting the toppings.
Megan Goldinger can be found working behind the counter as a “doughnut designer” each Wednesday.
She and several other young adults with intellectual development disabilities volunteer each week through Lifesteps, a Kittanning nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children, families, seniors and adults with special needs. The program helps them gain valuable real work experience.
Lifesteps senior supervisor Eileen Tuck says there are 55 young adults enrolled in the Next Step Transition Program, in which Megan participates.
“There are a few other local businesses involved and we are hoping to lead the way for more businesses to be included,” Goldinger says.
A total of five Lifesteps Transition participants report to Funky Monkey weekly — folding boxes, making doughnuts, helping with cleaning and learning how to be appropriate in a job environment — Goldinger says.
“We are hoping to hire some of the trainees,” Goldinger says. “This area so desperately needs new things and also needs places for these individuals to have employment and be part of the community.”
“We want to prepare these young adults to live as independently as possible,” Tuck says. “Our ultimate goal is for these individuals to be employed.”
Megan says she likes her weekly shift at Funky Monkey, which will soon increase to twice per week, and enjoys greeting customers.
“It makes me feel good to do my job and it makes me happy to be here,” Megan says. “And I like to eat just a doughnut with chocolate icing — my favorite.”
Step inside the spacious and bright shop located on Route 422 in Kittanning, and the aromas of coffee and doughnuts fill the air. Customers fill out an order form and each doughnut is cooked fresh, with “doughnut designers” customizing the treats.
Oreo Crumble, Coconut, Bacon Bits, Rainbow Sprinkles, Chocolate Chips, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are some of the 12 toppings from which customers select.
Drizzle your doughnut with chocolate, caramel, raspberry, strawberry or vanilla and coat the creation with glaze, maple icing, peanut butter icing, powdered sugar, vanilla or chocolate icing or cinnamon sugar. The shop is take-out only.
Prices run $1 for a single, $5.50 per half-dozen and $10 per dozen. There’s no seating at Funky Monkey, so customers have to get their doughnuts to go.
Barb Goldinger’s mother, Marge Check of Armstrong County’s Manor Township, is retired and was looking for “a hobby that was perfect for her,” she says.
The mother/daughter/granddaughter trio have already developed a loyal following in Kittanning.
“I love to cook,” says Check, who fries up doughnuts by the dozen. She babies each doughnut, making sure they flip and fry to perfection, sometimes prodding them along with a long wooden stick.
Customers describe the doughnuts’ texture as the perfect mixture of crispy and soft. More than three fresh batches of batter are mixed up daily.
The store recently got a new, bigger fryer, one that will increase production and cut down on customer wait times.
The most popular doughnut sold? Maple Bacon. A doughnut of the month is offered, such as the recently featured Hot Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake.
Local freshly roasted coffee is available, provided by Curly Tail Coffee in Lower Burrell.
Curly Tail Coffee owner Nicole Waltenbaugh hails from Kittanning and partnered with Goldinger.
“I try and do as much as possible in my hometown of Kittanning,” says Waltenbaugh, now residing in Lower Burrell. “It’s so nice to see a wonderful small business with a great concept open in my hometown. The doughnuts are made from scratch right in front of you and it definitely pays off, because the taste is amazing.”
With just a few months of running the small business, Goldinger jokes the “panic and crying is better” now.
“It has been a huge adjustment going from a steady full-time job to running your own business,” Goldinger says. “We have had a few bumps in the road but, with customer feedback and some adjustments, we are plugging along. We are very excited with all of the community support and with our wonderful customers.”
Future plans include introducing doughnut fillings, gluten-free doughnuts and chocolate, blueberry and strawberry flavored doughnuts.
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.