It's Your Business: Ye Olde Donut Shoppe is back
CHAMPAIGN — Folks who visit the Taste of Champaign-Urbana festival next weekend are likely to see a time-honored local brand they haven’t seen in years: Ye Olde Donut Shoppe.
The business, which at one time had three shops in Champaign-Urbana, closed its last store about four years ago. But business owner Eric Seeds continued to provide doughnuts to commercial and wholesale customers, while operating a cafe on campus as well as a food truck.
Now, lest “Olde” acquaintance be forgot, Seeds is bringing Ye Olde Donut Shoppe to the annual food-tasting festival, offering not only traditional yeast and cake doughnuts, but also a line of gourmet doughnuts. The festival runs from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday in Champaign’s West Side Park.
Plus, Seeds said he is considering opening a new Ye Olde Donut Shoppe in the “near future.” He hasn’t announced where in town it might be, but hinted it may end up near an interstate highway.
“A place with freeway access would be natural, so (motorists could) pop in for coffee and doughnuts,” he said.
While Seeds has concentrated on operating Derald’s Cafe in the University of Illinois College of Law building the last few years, he has continued to sell doughnuts to area convenience stores, coffee shops, car dealerships and churches.
And in the past year, he has sought to raise Ye Olde’s public profile — first, by covering Ye Olde’s delivery vehicle with full-color graphics promoting the business, and second, by launching social media accounts for Ye Olde on Facebook and Twitter.
“We are very late to social media, and we are desperately playing catch-up,” Seeds said.
But Seeds said the response has been great, with several people telling him they thought Ye Olde was out of business until they spotted it on Facebook or Twitter.
“That’s why I’m doing Taste of C-U — more for brand awareness than for profit from the show,” Seeds said.
A fixture in Champaign-Urbana for decades, Ye Olde Donut Shoppe (then spelled “Shop”) had locations at the southwest corner of University and Lincoln avenues in Urbana, at the northwest corner of First and Green streets in Champaign and in the 1200 block of South Mattis Avenue in Champaign.
According to a 2004 News-Gazette story, the business originated in 1956 and was operated by Emma and Charles Woollen. In 1977, Emma’s sister, Sandy Pyle, and her husband, Mike, took over the business. The Mattis Avenue store closed in 1999, the Urbana store was torn down in 2002, and the Campustown store closed briefly in 2004, only to be reopened by longtime employee Humberto “Jose” Rodriguez.
Seeds said he bought out Rodriguez four years ago, and Rodriguez stayed on “as my doughnut cook.”
“It’s been the same cook making the doughnuts for I don’t know how many years,” Seeds said.
Mr. Pyle, the longtime owner and operator of Ye Olde, died May 21.
Seeds said Ye Olde’s line of traditional cake doughnuts includes blueberry, cherry, devil’s food and red velvet, while the yeast line includes ring doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, twists and long johns.
The most popular product is “probably our apple fritter,” he said.
But Ye Olde also has a gourmet line with 12 varieties, including salted pretzel caramel, cranberry cream cheese, maple pecan cake and old-fashioned sour cream, which Seeds said ranks as probably the second-most popular.
Usually, Ye Olde features a different doughnut every day, but for Taste of Champaign-Urbana, “we’ll put ’em all together for the show,” Seeds said.
He added that Derald’s Cafe is named for his uncle, Derald Seeds, who Eric Seeds said operated “Champaign-Urbana’s original food truck.” The Derald’s food truck continues to offer breakfast and lunch sandwiches — but not doughnuts — on campus.