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Auntie Ruth’s celebrating 10 years of success

Amy Millhorn Leonard • Oct 3, 2018 at 10:30 AM

First you see the familiar white food trailer and then you smell the distinct aroma of... DONUTS. You patiently wait in line to buy one or more of those delicious homemade, warm, fresh donuts from an always courteous, smiling Mennonite girl. Then, you race to your car, office or nearest bench to savor at least one of those donuts or a pretzel along with a fresh-squeezed lemonade. These DONUTS are not just average donuts. They are huge, still warm from the fryer, light and fluffy, and coated in a deliciously sweet glaze. The pretzels are equally as delicious, hand-twisted and lightly salted ready to dip in cheese or cinnamon sugar dipping sauces. These are Auntie Ruth’s Donuts & Pretzels!

What started out as a hobby back in 2006, Auntie Ruth’s Donuts & Pretzels has turned into a successful and expanding family business. That year, Roman and Ruth Kauffman visited her sister in Virginia to help with a school benefit by making and selling donuts made from a family recipe. They were so successful that Ruth decided to sell the donuts at the Apple Festival in Erwin in both 2006 and 2007. The response was overwhelming! In 2008, they were urged to set up at the Farmers Market in Downtown Johnson City and then a true food truck or, in this case, food trailer business was born that year.

Ten years later, Auntie Ruth’s is celebrating its 10th anniversary! To celebrate their success with the community, they will host a party in Founders Park in Downtown Johnson City from 4 to 8 p.m., Monday, Oct. 15. There, every person will receive one free donut. Along with their donuts, pretzels and drinks for sale, Auntie Ruth’s will also have T-shirts, aprons, mugs and more available. Inflatables for the kids and additional food trucks will be present as well.

“We owe a huge thank you to the people of Johnson City and the Tri-Cities who have been loyal customers of Auntie Ruth’s and this is our way of showing our appreciation,” says Roman.

About the Kauffmans: Roman and Ruth Kauffman both grew up Amish on farms in North Carolina. When they married 26 years ago, they moved to the Mennonite community in Chuckey, Tennessee, and started a family. After serving as missionaries in Ireland from 2000 through 2005, they returned to Tennessee. Their daughters Angie, Jolene “Jo” and Alisha - now ages 22, 19 and 16 respectively - have grown up in the community and in the business. Angie, now married and living in Oregon, still manages much of the business aspects and marketing, and sister Jo dreams of possibly starting a coffee business of her own one day.

While Ruth’s primary focus became Auntie Ruth’s from 2008 to 2012, Roman was very busy managing three separate businesses. In 2012, he was able to stop managing a stressful construction business and sell his wholesale apple butter business to concentrate solely on Auntie Ruth’s Donuts & Pretzels. He started working alongside his wife and three daughters concentrating on early morning setups and customizing their food trailers. Then Auntie Ruth’s developed a huge following on social media.

Originally made up of the family of five and one food trailer customized by Roman to Ruth’s specifications, Auntie Ruth’s now employs up to 20 people per week and has three trailers.

“They are a great group of people and I always tell them, no matter what is going on, to smile and be friendly to all our customers,” Ruth explains.

Along with their superior food and excellent work ethic, it is indeed their friendly service that has made Auntie Ruth’s successful in the Tri-Cities and beyond. Auntie Ruth’s has recently sold licensing agreements to two other entrepreneurs in Virginia and South Carolina, and Ruth’s brother has started a similar business based out of Florida.

Auntie Ruth’s Donuts & Pretzels can be found almost every Wednesday and Saturday morning at the Johnson City Farmers Market, July through October, and at least one other Johnson City location during the week. They also appear weekly in Bristol, Elizabethton, Abingdon and Kingsport as well as at festivals like Hillbilly Days in Pikeville, Kentucky, and the Apple Festival in Erwin among others within 100 miles.

They often feature seasonal specialties like “Strawberries & Cream” in spring, “Peaches & Cream” in summer and the “Maple Bacon Donut” which is now available for fall. Ruth is also excited to announce they will soon have donuts filled with delicious homemade Bavarian cream.

“I personally cook the cream. We make everything homemade and that is what makes it so good,” declares Ruth.

To find out Auntie Ruth’s locations and more about their delicious food and friendly service, like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AuntieRuthsDoughnuts.

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