By Donna Cornelius
That thing you have for doughnuts? It’s in your genes.
At least, that’s what Phil Amthor believes.
“Everybody has a love for doughnuts within them from birth,” said Amthor, who started Birmingham’s We Have Doughnuts with his wife, Sara. The company just helps reawaken that primal connection, he said.
The small batch, made-from-scratch doughnuts are sold at a stand that’s open Tuesday-Friday in the vestibule at the old Birmingham Savings & Trust building in downtown Birmingham. Other owners are Matt Churnock and Graham Yelton, who’s also the company’s brand manager. Sandy MacKay is the kitchen manager.
“My childhood love of doughnuts started a network of people,” said Amthor, who grew up in Hoover. “In 2013, we started talking about this. We started with four people – it was finding the right time to do it and the right recipe.”
He and Sara, a Culinard graduate, spent months working on recipes.
“My background is in city planning, and making good doughnuts is making the city better,” Amthor said with a smile.
Nashville native Yelton said she and her husband, Jay, met Amthor in a way unconnected to doughnuts.
“Phil was the architect for our house,” said Yelton, who lives in west Homewood.
Yelton, a graphic designer and photographer, said she told Amthor that if he ever got a doughnut business going, she’d be happy help with branding and design work. He did, and she was.
“It took about a year or so for us to develop recipes that were worthy of sharing,” Yelton said. “Phil had the idea to have a test group. We’d drop the doughnuts off around town for people to taste test. That turned into a doughnut delivery service.”
The business was nameless for a while before its owners settled on We Have Doughnuts, Yelton said. A few months after the enterprise started, it briefly went dark to rework and strengthen its game plan.
“We took a hiatus over the summer to get the kitchen in order and the right people in it,” Yelton said.
Folks already addicted to the doughnuts were relieved when the company re-launched a few months ago. In addition to its downtown Birmingham stand and delivery and catering services, We Have Doughnuts will open its first brick-and-mortar store next fall in Avondale’s Box Row development. Read more in Foodie News nearby.
The company makes two kinds of doughnuts: old-fashioned, which are cake style, and raised, made with yeast.
Some of the doughnut flavors are inspired by seasonal and local products, Yelton said. “One of the first flavors we did was the blueberry lemon. I actually went out to a farm and picked the blueberries.”
Another inspiration is from a more sophisticated source – cocktails.
“Both Phil and I are bourbon drinkers, so we make an Old-Fashioned Old-Fashioned,” Yelton said. “We also did a Coke, peanut and whiskey doughnut based on a cocktail at Ollie Irene.”
A hot buttered rum flavor is in the works for the winter, she said.
We Have Doughnuts’ kitchen is closed Christmas day. But if you want to give someone a sweet surprise or serve your own family a festive holiday breakfast, the company is taking preorders Christmas week with several pickup locations.
While the menu changes, Yelton said chocolate doughnuts – sometimes in old-fashioned style and sometimes in raised – are always on offer.
“People also like our vanilla raised and our buttermilk old-fashioned, which is a basic glazed doughnut,” she said. “Our brown butter old-fashioned, which was also one of our first flavors, developed a cult following. We realized that one wasn’t going away.”
For those who want the food at their parties or special events to be a showstopper, We Have Doughnuts has a “doughnut wall.” The treats are hung on specially made pegboards, and guests can pluck off their favorites.
Yelton said the doughnut wall was the brainchild of Carrie Montgomery, development events manager at the Birmingham Museum of Art.
“Everybody that knows Carrie knows her love for doughnuts,” Yelton said. “She organizes Art on The Rocks at the museum, and she’d been after us for two years to participate. She had the idea for a doughnut wall.
“We did it last August – it was like a light bulb went off. We kept the panels; you can rent them out. We did eight dozen doughnuts on a wall recently at Trim Tab for an album release party.”
The company now is offering punch cards for customers. If you buy 12 half-dozen orders, you get a free half dozen. If you buy 12 individual doughnuts, you get another single doughnut for free.
Like Amthor, Yelton has her own doughnut memories.
“There was a doughnut place next to my high school, and I loved to go there,” she said. “Now, we want to be that go-to doughnut place and help people make new memories.”
The We Have Doughnuts stand is open from 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday-Friday at 112 20th St. North. in downtown Birmingham. Handy hint: Get there early or risk leaving doughnut-less; the stand closes once it’s sold out. It’s closed on Saturdays, but preorders and deliveries are still available at several pickup locations. You also can get their doughnuts at Revelator Coffee, Satellite Coffee Bar and Seeds Coffee. For more information and to place orders, visit www.wehavedoughnuts.com or follow the company on Facebook and on Instagram and Twitter @WeHaveDoughnuts.