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‘If you fry it, they will come’

North Lime Coffee and Donuts is instant hit

By Abby Laub
For BG Magazine
A publication of The Lane Report

Abby Laub is a writer for BG Magazine.

Waking up at 4 a.m. is not so bad when you know freshly fried doughnuts and brewed coffee roasted just a few miles away awaits.

“I love walking down from the parking lot and smelling the donuts,” said Joe Ross about arriving for work at the newly opened North Lime Coffee and Donuts. “Getting up early was an adjustment, but once you get here it’s great.”

Ross is one of a trio of young Lexingtonians (all are under the age of 35) who opened the new coffee and doughnut hub on the corner of North Limestone and Sixth Street. Heidi Hays is responsible for most of the baking side, although a noteboard in the North Lime kitchen is home to scribbled doughnut ideas from all of the staff. A current fan favorite is the Elvis Presley, a banana-flavored doughnut.

A third partner, Teddy Ray, keeps his day job but helps the pair with bookkeeping. Hays left her full-time job as a hardware engineer at Lexmark, and Ross previously worked full-time as a mortgage officer for Fifth Third Bank.

“I worked at Starbucks for five years before to learn the ropes [of the coffee business],” Ross said. “I really wanted to do this 10 years ago initially, and wrote a business plan and everything, but just never really had an opportunity to do it until this came along.”

Ross knew the coffee side, but had never done doughnuts. Fortunately, Hays had a lot of baking experience. The business owner trio thought Lexington needed a place that did both coffee and doughnuts really well, and Ross joked that multiple police officers have approved.

“I thought there was a niche that needed to be filled,” he said.

The smooth, unique coffee blends (including espresso roasts) are done locally by Nathan Polly of Nate’s Coffee. He works part-time at North Lime as a barista and said he loves seeing the expressions on people’s faces when they drink his coffee.

An espresso roast is brewed specifically for North Lime Coffee and Donuts. Dine-in customers can drink the coffee in a wide Kentucky Mud Works mug made just for North Lime.

The well-balanced, smooth coffee is Polly’s specialty and he is gaining more attention in Lexington for it.

The secret?

“Time, patience and love,” Polly said, joking that he talks to his coffee beans. “I come into my office and say, ‘How are you guys today?’ and ask them if they’re ready to get roasted.”

The coffee has been a hit, and equally as savory are the shop’s yeast doughnuts. The staff makes them up as they go, but some favorites have stuck around. There already are fan favorites and “followers” of certain doughnuts, Ross said. The maple bacon (yes, it has a strip of bacon on top of it) is a huge hit, the taste resembling a stack of pancakes topped with maple syrup and a side of bacon.

Another popular doughnut is the “North Key Lime,” with cream cheese icing. The chocolate glazed is a menu staple.

Ross described North Lime’s doughnuts as thicker and less airy than most yeast doughnuts. They are chewy, fresh and extremely savory. You can’t eat just one, and since a plain glazed is just 85 cents, indulgence can be in the budget for just about everyone.

“We have one little kid who comes in every day after school and buys his doughnut,” Ross said.

Nathan Polly, Nick Cooper, Sam Burchett, Heidi Hays and Joe Ross have been pleasantly surprised by the community’s reaction to North Lime Coffee and Donuts. Ross, Hays and Teddy Ray own the shop; Polly roasts the coffee and is a barista there.

The neighborhood as a whole has been very supportive of North Lime Coffee and Donuts, Polly said.

“They constantly come in and say how happy they are to see the shop open and to have doughnuts,” he said.

One woman came in and started crying because she was so happy to see the space converted from a run-down liquor store to a doughnut and coffee shop, Ross said.

North Lime is just another step to revitalizing the neighborhood. Al’s Bar is right across the street, and Ross called it a “hipster college bar with great local acts and great food.”

Also across the street from North Lime, in the former Spalding bakery building, is the now-open Arcadium, a 1980s-style arcade with craft beer.

“We’re now the coolest corner in Lexington,” Ross laughed.

North Lime also is eco-friendly, utilizing mostly reclaimed elements to construct the espresso bar, baseboards and bathroom door (it’s from the 1800s). Other elements in the building itself also are from the late 1800s.

The new staff was busier than they ever imagined they would be. At its soft opening this fall, they sold out of doughnuts after about four hours and had to immediately hire more staff, according to Ross.

Families, commuters, business professionals, free- lancers and couples alike are visiting North Lime, he said. The corner sees about 10,000 cars per day and parking is available, so the location is ideal.

“I try not to get too far ahead of myself,” he said. “I think it would be cool to grow, but we are just so happy right here. We are enjoying the success and are happy it’s doing well. We knew we had awesome coffee and awesome doughnuts, we just hoped people would come.”

Polly joked, “If you fry it, they were will come. If you brew it they will come.”

For more information, visit northlimelex.com.

Abby Laub is a writer for BG Magazine. She can be reached at [email protected]