GUILFORD – Blazing Fresh Donuts has been serving Guilford residents for over four years, but owning a doughnut shop wasn’t what Jodi Burns, of Branford, originally envisioned for her life.
A Long Island native, Burns became interested in politics at an early age, and studied industrial and labor relations while attending Cornell University. She later worked for a women’s labor policy not-for-profit in Washington, D.C.
“That was what I was really interested in at the time,” Burns said. “I took a lot of women’s studies classes in college and economics classes.”
After a couple years, though, she said it was time to move on to bigger things. Burns spent the next 25 years building a career in financial services, and worked for companies like NASDAQ and the International Securities Exchange in New York City. She also earned her graduate degree from Harvard Business School.
By 2012, Burns wanted to leave New York – at least part of the time – and began looking for a weekend home near the water.
“That’s how I ended up having a second home on the shoreline of Connecticut,” she said.
Burns bought a condo in Branford and spent a few more years working in the financial industry, before deciding to take time off to travel.
“My plan at the time was that I would recharge my battery … and I would go back to what I had been doing before because I still loved the subject,” she said.
But after her yearlong sabbatical, the financial world had changed.
“I realized, I think I’m done,” she said. “When I started to think about looking for a job, it was Blockchain, Bitcoin, artificial intelligence, none of which interested me.”
Burns sold her New York City apartment, moved full-time to Branford and started looking for new inspiration.
That inspiration manifested in August 2018, when Burns visited her brother and his family in Delaware.
“I went to Bethany Beach, and I walked into a doughnut shop there on my first morning looking for breakfast. It was a made-to-order doughnut shop, and I didn’t even know that was a thing. I’d grown up basically eating Dunkin Donuts. I had this fresh, made-to-order doughnut, and it rocked my world.”
By the end of the trip, Burns said she had a “crazy idea.”
“Maybe I should open up a doughnut shop back home on the shoreline, because then I can have these doughnuts whenever I want, and I can introduce a real doughnut to the shoreline community,” she said.
After Burns returned to Branford, she said she wrote a 63-page business plan and spent seven weeks in Pennsylvania learning how to make made-to-order doughnuts at a shop there. She later got approved for a small business loan and searched for a location close to home to open her new shop.
“I wanted the store to be part of the community,” Burns said, adding she also wanted to avoid being too close to a familiar doughnut chain store.
“I didn’t want to see a Dunkin Donuts from my store,” she said. “I have no problem competing with Dunkin Donuts … but in terms of convenience factor, I cannot be as fast as Dunkin Donuts. It was very hard to find a location where I couldn’t see the Dunkin Donuts.”
Ultimately, she picked Guilford, setting up shop at 16 Church St. in June 2019.
“Guilford’s a really pro-small business town,” she said. “I liked that aspect of it. I liked the size of it. I felt like we could connect with the community here. This location is wonderful. I’ve got a middle school that’s walking distance that way. The community center’s right there. The library’s right there. There are three churches on the Guilford Green. There are a lot of events on the green that bring people.”
Blazing Fresh Donuts’s location was previously home to Red Rooster Cookies.
“The food infrastructure was already there,” Burns said. “That saved me a ton of money and a ton of time. I didn’t have to put in a commercial dishwasher or a dishwashing station. I didn’t have to put in an overhead heating vent. I didn’t have to put in a grease trap.”
She said part of what makes Blazing Fresh Donuts the best is that the doughnuts are made to order.
“We all grew up eating stale doughnuts,” she said. “We didn’t know they were stale because we didn’t have anything to compare them to. The freshness factor is huge. … I think that I came up with a pretty great recipe and it was a pretty fun process.”
Blazing Fresh Donuts’ products are cake doughnuts and use baking soda as the leavening agent versus yeast, which takes about an hour longer to proof, she said.
In a little over four years, Burns has created about 500 different doughnut recipes, from standard flavors like glazed and chocolate frosted to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and cereal killer with fruit-flavored cereal on top.
“We rotate all the time,” she said. “We do seasonal menus that are supplements to our standard year-round menus. We also do doughnuts for holidays that lend themselves to doughnuts. We make new doughnut concoctions for all those holidays in addition to the seasonal menu.”
After a long career in finance, Burns admitted there has been a learning curve with her new doughnut venture. She said she’s open to having a second location but not interested in creating a doughnut empire.
“This is my second chapter,” she said. “I am really proud of what I accomplished in my financial services career, and I accomplished way more than I ever thought I could. I’m not proving myself anymore. … I love making doughnuts, and serving them to customers and watching them enjoy the doughnuts.”