Flavors: Proof Donuts and Coffee a New Rising
On 24th Street West in Billings, Proof Donuts and Coffee is bringing an uprising. Here, donuts created by owners Klay Welter and Trevan Sparboe along with Vanessa Bigil and Jeremy Evans take on names of S’Mores, Huckleberry Day Dream and Maple Bacon. The plain cake donut or jelly donut are passé as the team of four each contribute creativity and whimsy every day to decorating the morning treats.
The idea for the donut shop originated from Welter. “When my finance and I travel we really don’t like to go to 5-star restaurants. When we go, we find the best hole in the wall taco shops,” Welter said. They not only searched for taco shops, but speakeasys and donut establishments and became intrigued with Voodoo Donut started in Portland, Oregon.
Welter shared his want of making and selling donuts with childhood friend, Trevan Sparboe, who encouraged him to realize the intention. Perfecting the recipe, he said took, “A little over four years. I mean even to this day, I say right now, I don’t know if it would ever be 100%.” “It’s different for us each day. It’s not like you get it from the proofer and fry it especially here in Montana when we experience three seasons in four days.”
With a small fryer and knowledge learned from Google and YouTube, Welter began his journey experimenting with different flours and yeast to now come to a workable combination with high gluten flour and dry active yeast.
The two bought Kal’s Chicken Coop with an investor from Kalvin Tang who was looking for a buyer for his business. “I want to put this donut shop inside something and create this duo concept of just do something totally different, not get bored with one thing, and make it two,” Sparboe shared.
Together, they came up with the name Proof. “It started as Legitimate Donuts and then it evolved to Puff,” Sparboe said. They settled on Proof because, “We were going to try to run with the speakeasy and donut shop theme, so at night Proof stood for the proofing process for dough, when dough rises, and then it would be spirits, the proof of whiskey, vodka, gin.”
For now, Proof Donuts and Coffee operate in the morning until they sell out to become Kal’s Chicken Coop serving chicken sandwiches at lunch time and into dinner.
The concept came to fruition after a popup brunch at Harper and Madison. Welter teamed up with Sparboe’s other venture, Blind Bison, an impromptu cocktail venture he runs with Bryan Taylor. With postings on social media, the word was out. Then when they quietly opened their storefront in May, it did not take long before customers discovered this shop that made only an average of 400 donuts a day.
Work begins at 4:00 a.m. in the morning. The “cutter” arrives first to pull rising dough from the refrigerator to cut the donuts and proof them. The donuts are then fried to be decorated by the team.
On National Doughnut Day, June 3rd, Proof sold out of donuts in less than an hour after they opened at 7:00 a.m. They started the day by allowing customers to buy two dozen donuts. “I realized ten minutes in that I had made a very large mistake. We thought if we did the two-dozen donut thing that there would be people who still came in and got six packs and get three dozen donuts here, a dozen here.” (Most of the customers turned away received a box of donut holes.) These days, there is a six-donut limit.
“We are a part time donut shop doing several thousand donuts a week, and by no means do we take any pleasure running out of donuts every day,” Welter shared. “At the end of the day we want everyone to experience Proof.”
For now, rising early may be insurance of getting a taste of what is rising at Proof Donuts and Coffee.