New SLC doughnut shop sells Instagram-worthy confections for a good cause

All doughnuts sold by The Other Side Donuts go to support permanent housing for formerly homeless Utahns.

If you take a drive down Redwood Road, it’s near impossible to miss a colorfully painted building on the west side of the street that stands out brightly among its more drab surroundings.

That’s The Other Side Donuts, a new doughnut shop at 760 S. Redwood Road in Salt Lake City, and last week it was the location of a grand-opening party that attracted dozens of people ready to sample its decadent confections.

They crowded into the newly renovated former church, many with babies in their arms and small children in tow, eager to try doughnut flavors like the Unicorn, decorated with brightly colored icing and edible glitter, and the black and white Bavarian Zebra. Upbeat music played, bubble machines spat out waves of bubbles, and cotton candy machines spun drifts of candy floss.

The air of excitement was infectious, as was the hopeful atmosphere, for The Other Side Donuts is no ordinary doughnut shop.

While the doughnuts were free on opening day, on every other day, 100% of the proceeds from the purchase of doughnuts goes toward The Other Side Village, a neighborhood of tiny houses for formerly homeless Utahns that has long been promised for the west side.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Other Side Donuts in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 26, 2024.

The master-planned community near Redwood Road and Indiana Avenue has been dogged by delays, however, and has yet to make available a single home within the village, The Salt Lake Tribune has reported.

However, those delays didn’t stop the completion of The Other Side Donuts, which is one of the social enterprises that supports the village. The renovation work was done by The Other Side Builders, who are members of The Other Side Academy, which is a work-based program that supports people who have been incarcerated or struggled with addiction, said Other Side Donuts general manager Nicholas Smith.

In filling positions for The Other Side Donuts, priority is given to people who have graduated from The Other Side’s live-in prep school program and qualified to move into The Other Side Village, Smith said.

When you go into The Other Side Donuts now and peer into the display cases, the beautiful doughnuts you see were all made by people who were chronically homeless less than a year ago, Smith said.

At the opening day celebration, Victoria Petro, who represents District 1 in the Salt Lake City Council, stood under a rainbow-like archway of balloons as she spoke.

“Community says every individual is born with a value that is immutable,” Petro said. “And when we together create avenues and opportunities for that immutable dignity and value to rise to the occasion, that’s what happens.”

‘Donut stop believing’

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Other Side Donuts in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 26, 2024.

Right now, everyone working for The Other Side Donuts is a student of the prep school. They wake up around 2 a.m. in order to meet just before 3 a.m. at The Other Side Academy’s on-site commissary kitchen, Smith said.

The team members receive guidance in their work from such people as Smith and manager Kale Batty, who are both graduates of The Other Side Academy. Smith and Batty also provide support and mentorship during any emotional situations that may arise, so the team members can process them productively and get back to their workday, Smith said.

For now, they’re only decorating the doughnuts. But Smith said one of the last buildings to go in at The Other Side Village will be a bakery, which will give them a place to mix up the dough from scratch.

Smith said the doughnut shop and the artisan doughnuts themselves were inspired by Voodoo Doughnut, which operates more than 20 locations across the United States.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Other Side Donuts in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 26, 2024.

At first, the plan was to make and sell cookies, “but the market’s pretty saturated,” he said. “It’s hard to compete with Crumbl.”

The Other Side Donuts is meant to be over the top, whimsical and highly Instagrammable, with colorful murals and neon signs around every corner.

“We wanted to create an experience with doughnuts that ties into, say, a destination place you would go to, like Disneyland,” Smith said. “... Take Disneyland combined with Voodoo Doughnut, and you get The Other Side Donuts.”

The doughnut shop itself features cloud- and doughnut-shaped tables to sit at and numerous decorative touches, like flowers hanging from the ceiling and lights made from clusters of glass balls. During the opening day party, kids decorated their own doughnuts in the “party room,” which will be available for birthday parties and other events. Other Side Donuts team members wore T-shirts that read, “Donut stop believing. It’s sweet to save a life.”

Many of the doughnut names come from pop culture, like Miss Trunchbull’s Chocolate Cake Donut (from the movie “Matilda”) and Violet’s Forbidden Blueberry Crumble (from the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”).

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Other Side Donuts in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 26, 2024.

There’s an outdoor dining area, and a mural on the back wall of the building reads, “Empower everyone.”

Batty said that working for The Other Side Donuts provides people who have been chronically homeless a place “where they get to come feel worthwhile and have purpose. Teach them how to work and get up on time and show up for the people around them. How to have healthy boundaries and feel love, how to show love.”