Walking into the warmth of North Hills Donuts, you immediately feel like family. You are greeted by a smile and, behind the counter, two giant donuts. Two 16-inch donuts, to be precise.
The giant donut is one of the ways that this old donut shop is staying relevant as Akron continues to reinvent itself.
North Hill Donuts is owned by Linda and Louie Tsakalis. The name North Hill Donuts has only been on the building since 2005. Prior to that, Linda and Louie owned a Dunkin Donuts franchise location in the same building. They’ve been serving up donuts under that roof since 1976.
When you stop into North Hill Donuts, you are likely to encounter Linda or Louie behind the counter exchanging stories with a customer. If you’re an early riser, you will definitely meet Louie, who opens the shop at 4:30 am.
The most popular donut is the cream stick. Or, I should say, one of the cream sticks: North Hill Donuts serves chocolate cream sticks, maple cream sticks, apple sticks, jelly sticks, eclairs and more.
If you think all cream sticks are alike, you should try these.
“The difference is because I make my own 50-year-old recipe. Somebody else’s, they’re too sweet. Ours is not too sweet. The people tell me, ‘you’re different, your cream stick is not too sweet,’” Louie says. “The other one, you eat half and you gag. But not this one.”
If you’re not a filled donut kind of person, you should try the apple fritters. Louie claims that they are the best in the world. Or at least that’s what his customers tell him.
North Hill Donuts sells between 50 and 100 dozen donuts a day. That sounds like a lot, but Louie assures us that it is not actually that many.
“It is [a lot] for a small place like this. Let’s put it this way, if you make 10 or 20 dozen a day, you don’t survive. There’s not enough money to pay the bills,” Louie says.
When their franchise agreement with Dunkin Donuts ended in 2004, Linda and Louie bought the land and the building to open up North Hill Donuts and continue providing their neighborhood with Louie’s incredible cream sticks.
Linda and Louie look at the donut shop as a relaxing job now that they’ve become an independent business. “I think it’s a little more enjoyable now,” Linda says.
“Now it’s like a hobby. You know, a lot of people like golfing, a lot of people like fishing, I like to sell donuts.” Louie adds.
After more than 40 years in business, Louie has identified three things that a business needs.
“Three things in a business you have to execute to survive: Clean place, good service, and good product. These things take a lot of effort, take a lot of work. It’s not easy,” Louie says.
But, what’s the deal with the giant donut?
The giant donut is comically large, 16 inches in diameter and weighing a pound and a half. It’s the first thing you see when you walk through the door. Someone requested a giant donut for a birthday, Linda says, and it quickly became one of the shop’s iconic menu items. Kids and adults alike enjoy having the massive donut for birthdays to spice up the traditional birthday dessert.
“It’s something different. Kids, the parents tell me, [think] cake is an old fashioned thing,” Louie says. “The donut is something new… we put them in a pizza box and they think it’s a pizza. They open it up and it’s a donut! Big surprise.”
If you want to order your own giant donut — for a birthday, office party, or if you’re just really hungry — make sure to call 24 hours in advance.
North Hill Donuts is located at 662 E Tallmadge Ave, Akron, OH 44310. Their hours are Monday-Saturday 4:30 am – 6 pm, and Sunday 6 am – 1 pm.
Colleen Hanke is a Media Studies student at The University of Akron.