As with the creation of any succulent treat, bringing Indiana-based Parlor Doughnuts to town has taken more than a dash of detail, time and love. Yet Van and Beverly Cline say each measured step has been worth it.
Bev Cline stumbled across South Carolina’s first Parlor Doughnuts, on Pawley’s Island, on the store’s opening day in 2021.
“I took a bite of a raspberry-filled doughnut and stopped in my tracks with powdered sugar all over my lips,” the Eastside resident recalls. “I told Van this is the best pastry I’ve ever put in my mouth. We’ve got to bring these to Greenville.”
That decadent, signature-layered delight was one of 10,000 small-batch craft doughnuts the coastal shop sold during its inaugural weekend. Parlor’s owners opened their first establishment in the Midwest in 2019 and began testing other locations, including an Airstream trailer at Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Across the summer of 2021, they were awaiting federal and state approval to begin franchising operations, with the Clines ready to sign.
“We had just decided I should retire from teaching,” Bev Cline says. “And Van would like a focus when he retires from developing and bringing oncology pharmaceuticals to market. We’ve wanted to do something like this for so long. We’ve explored other investment and franchise opportunities over the years and this one just felt right.”
Both are self-admitted foodies, and as members of a three-generation Greenville family, they are driven to give back to the city they love.
“Having grown up here, it’s important to me to support the area,” Van Cline explains. “This business will allow us to create jobs, present philanthropic opportunities and instill community.”
That franchise name, Parlor, germinates from a place of social connections: the sitting room reserved for special guests. Each shop embraces vintage Americana, with a nod to those in uniform dating back to Salvation Army “doughnut lassies,” who distributed doughnuts to soldiers during World War I. Finding the perfect place took the Clines more than a year, before they inked a lease for 2,500 square feet at 1901 Laurens Road, inside Olde Towne Center, which they say is undergoing $400,000 in renovations.
“We looked everywhere, from Simpsonville to Mauldin, to Woodruff Road,” Bev Cline says. “The market was tight, but we knew we wanted Laurens Road, which is experiencing rebirth and so many pass through it.”
Construction crews are overhauling the space, which will include newly designed outdoor seating. The couple relishes moving their passion for cooking to a professional kitchen that will also pump out artesian breakfast sandwiches and açaí bowls. As for labor in the front and back of house? The Clines plan to tap into Bev Cline’s network of former students.
“I hope to give these young adults a place to start building a resume,” she says. “My first job was at McDonald’s when I was 14 and the soft skills I learned set the foundation for my entire career. I hope to mentor these teens and do the same.”
By the time the shop opens this summer, it will join more than 70 other Parlors operating or in development from coast to coast, in a competitive gourmet-doughnut market. Research firm IBISWorld reports doughnut stores as a $8.9 billion industry that has grown an average 6.4% yearly, since 2018.
The Clines are already exploring options to establish more Parlor Doughnuts within 30 miles, including Clemson.
“There’s room for more doughnuts in the world,” Bev Cline says. “There’s a long history of comfort and love of a doughnut. I just know the spirit behind this franchise is palpable. It’s why the other franchises are doing so well and we can’t wait to join them.”
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Parlor’s top-selling doughnuts:
- Maple Bacon
- French Toast
- Campfire (tastes like s’mores)
The cost to start a Parlor Doughnuts is reportedly $397,500-$1.3 million, depending upon site selection and build costs.
- American’s general desire for on-the-go coffee and food
- Urban youth craving a place to commune
- Creative flavors, including healthier options
Nuggets from the Franchise Chatter website:
- Around 10 billion doughnuts are made in the U.S. each year
- More than 13,565 doughnut shops operate in the U.S.
- There are 200 million doughnut consumers
- Nearly 40% of doughnut sales are paired with coffee