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Joe and Kayla Merk, who purchased Donut Frenzy in Georgetown last year, currently see the shop in fourth place nationally and first in the state in the Sweetest Bakery in America Contest. Photo By Chris Adams

Doughnut shop aims to be sweetest

August 14, 2019
It's been a frenzied year for the folks at Donut Frenzy. And that's a good thing.

Joe Merk, who, with his wife, Kayla, bought the Georgetown doughnut shop in 2018, entered Donut Frenzy in the Sweetest Bakery in America Contest last month. Voting has been sweet, as the Merks' business has skyrocketed to fourth in the nation and tops in Indiana.

With several weeks remaining until voting closes on Sept. 30, Joe Merk is working hard to make sure that everyone knows that Donut Frenzy is, in fact, the nation's sweetest bakery.

"We just happened to get all this 'Vote for Your Sweetest Bakery in America Contest' stuff up on the day of our one-year anniversary (July 20)," Merk said. "So, we just started hitting it. Hitting everybody that walked in the door. Ö Every single person, 'Hey, get on the website or text (the code) and come vote for us.' "

He added: "We got stickers to put on the boxes that said, 'Come vote for us.' I mean, we hit it hard."

In addition, Merk goes online constantly asking his friends to help Donut Frenzy reach the top of the list.

"I vote every night. I message everybody as much as I can before they just want to de-friend me to vote," he joked. "I have put it on Facebook more times than I can probably count, on my own personal (page)."

Besides bragging rights and a six-foot trophy, the national winner will receive a trip to the Jackson, Miss.-based Dawn Food Products testing facility for one-on-one time with the company's creative kitchen staff.

State winners also will receive a trophy, albeit a smaller one.

"It will still look good. It will still be shined every day," a smiling Merk said.

State winners also will receive the digital rights to promote their victory, as well as time with the Dawn Food Products creative kitchen via a webinar.

Donut Frenzy is the only bakery among the 29 from Indiana entered in the contest currently in the top 10 nationally.

Donut Frenzy's success in the voting, as well as that of the business since Merk and his wife purchased it from Mike and Dorothy (Cookie) Lynch, is due partly to Merk's marketing, but, judging from customer reviews on the shop's social media pages, also to some really good doughnuts.

Wanting to make sure he was ready to make the transition from Donut Frenzy aficionado to the one making the doughnuts, Merk spent hundreds of hours training beside Mike Lynch, gleaning as much as he could from a man who had spent pretty much his entire life in a doughnut shop. In addition to retiring from Donut Frenzy, Lynch worked at Honey Cremes in New Albany as a kid.

While Merk and his wife, a nurse at Baptist Health Floyd, have kept the favorites from the Lynches' menu, they have added items when it has made sense, including a mixed berry doughnut made with all-natural ingredients this summer.

However, Merk is extremely excited for autumn to arrive as he plans to "inundate the Kentuckiana area" with pumpkin spice doughnuts. In fact, he has a meeting with Louisville Zoo officials about making the seasonal favorites available during the zoo's fall festivities.

Merk also has meetings scheduled with Huber's Restaurant and Holiday World & Splashin' Safari.

If successful, those corporate partnerships won't be the first for Donut Frenzy since the Merks purchased the business. The shop was able to provide doughnuts for the 2018 Breeders Cup at Churchill Downs. That enabled Donut Frenzy to be chosen to be the doughnut provider for media members during Derby week this past spring. All together, the shop provided about 600 dozen assorted doughnuts, with pick-up each morning at 4:30.

Relentless in his promotion of the business, Merk, who has a degree in business management, is constantly on the business' social media pages. In addition, the shop has become famous for the pun-filled sidewalk sign he puts outside the front door. One recent message read, "What's a donut's favorite day? Fry day!"

To promote the Sweetest Bakery in America Contest, Merk recently was on Terry Meiners' WHAS 840 radio program and will appear on WLKY-TV later this month when the station visits the shop. In addition, Donut Frenzy will have a float in next month's Lanesville Heritage Weekend parade.

Donut Frenzy also has worked to become engaged in the community, helping several schools and organizations with fundraisers. For instance, it sold doughnuts at last year's Big Cat Classic football game between North Harrison and Corydon Central, with a portion of the proceeds going to the host Panther athletics. Starting at halftime, Donut Frenzy sold all 75 dozen doughnuts it brought within two minutes into the third quarter.

"The community's been good to us. Ö We want people to know we're a part of the community," Merk said.

To vote for Donut Frenzy in the Sweetest Bakery in America Contest, visit sweetestbakeryinamerica.com or text SBA2074 to 474747. Voting is allowed once per day per device.

Donut Frenzy is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 10 a.m. and 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4 to 10 a.m. and 5 to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 4 to 10 a.m. It is closed on Monday.

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