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Flavors: Proof Donuts and Coffee a New Rising

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Stella Fong
Owners of Proof Donuts and Coffee, Klay Welter and Trevin Sparboe share the story of how this popular donut shop began in May and has created a craze.

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.

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Stella Fong
Trevin Sparboe, co-owner of Proof Donuts and Coffee whip up a Dr. Pepper glaze in honor of team member Jeremy Evans’ love of this soda.

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.”

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Stella Fong
Vanessa Bigil, the newest member of the Proof Donuts and Coffee team, holds up the cutter for the donuts with holes.

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.

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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.

Stella Fong
Proof's Donuts and Coffee's S'mores donut screams dreamy campfire with bears included.

“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.

Stella Fong shares her personal love of food and wine through her cooking classes and wine seminars as well as through her contributions to Yellowstone Valley Woman, and Last Best News and The Last Best Plates blogs. Her first book, Historic Restaurants of Billings hit the shelves in November of 2015 with Billings Food available in the summer of 2016. After receiving her Certified Wine Professional certification from the Culinary Institute of America with the assistance of a Robert Parker Scholarship for continuing studies, she has taught the Wine Studies programs for Montana State University Billings Wine and Food Festival since 2008. She has instructed on the West Coast for cooking schools such as Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, Macy’s Cellars, and Gelsons, and in Billings, at the Billings Depot, Copper Colander, Wellness Center, the YMCA and the YWCA. Locally she has collaborated with Raghavan Iyer and Christy Rost in teaching classes.