Desert Donuts

Steve Wolff can bring the sweets, whether it’s boba, donuts or ice cream

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Steve Wolff knows how to promote a business. Shortly after taking ownership of Desert Donuts, he dressed as a donut and stood on the corner encouraging folks to try his sweets—in the 101-degree heat.

Now he’s promising that guests will have their best donut at Desert Donuts.

“We make the donuts for you fresh on a machine,” Wolff says. “You or I can dip the donuts, according to how the customer wants it. About 98% of the customers will say that’s the best donut they’ve ever had. There’s nothing like a hot, fresh donut.”

After 18 years in the trucking business, Wolff decided to hang up his keys. He could have gone in many directions, but he chose the gooey goodness of donuts.

Desert Donuts, at 3134 W. Carefree Highway, Suite A10, Anthem, has been a hit since Wolff purchased the coffee and sweets shop, which now has boba tea, ice cream and gelato. Created in Taiwan in the 1980s, boba tea has “pearls,” chewy tapioca balls, in different flavors.

Wolff offers samples to those who are a little unsure of boba.

“You have your base teas—black, green, Thai, jasmine—and then it’s like making a bar cocktail,” he says. “I add a flavor shot, like mango or passion fruit.

“It’s just a refreshing fruit drink with caffeine. The bursting boba has fruit juices. They break and add flavor to the shot of liquid you’re getting. It’s hard to try to explain sometimes, but they’re big among teenagers. If one teenager puts it on Instagram, then two more come in the next day to see what the heck that was all about.”

Wolff uses only the best ingredients as well. He eschews fructose for brown sugar.

Among the donuts’ various flavors, the Bacon Blast is a favorite, with its cinnamon sugar bottom and bacon bits. He enjoys the apple pie—with cinnamon sugar, apple filling and caramel drizzle.

“Some people say the Bacon Blast is like a warm pancake,” Wolff says. “I’ve given them out to people who say it’s going to be awful, or people who have never tried a donut. Usually, I see them a couple days later—after they’ve given us a try. We have that good of a draw.

“I get complaints, too, about the $2 per donut price. I give discounts, though, for people who want just plain or cinnamon sugar. But they can have as many toppings as they want on it.”

Thrifty Ice Cream is the perfect snack for the summer or guests coming from nearby Echo Sushi, he says. Chocolate Malted Krunch sells out the door.

Wolff enjoys the freedom of being an independent business owner.

“Not being a franchise, I love the idea of adding whatever I want to the menu,” he says. “There are some restrictions I have to follow, but I love encouraging guests to try this, that and the other thing.”

Wolff is a Midwest native who realized he wanted to move to Arizona after visiting his sister in Cave Creek on a Thanksgiving vacation. He wanted to get away from the cold of Minnesota and North Dakota but hadn’t fully explored the west.

“I was only a local driver when I drove a truck,” he says. “I haven’t seen a million places.”

When he decided he wanted to give Arizona a go, he worked with a broker to find a company to purchase.

“I always went to Starbucks,” he says. “I know I was spending a fortune every month on Starbucks. I was lucky to find an already established coffeeshop that also did donuts.

“I got more information, came out here and had a donut and coffeeshop. How could I go wrong? It’s still a risk. It’s crazy not to have college experience, but I’ve been told I’m a very good people person. If you’re stuck in a truck long enough with nobody to talk to, your natural instinct is to want to talk to everyone.”

An avid comic book fan, Wolff made Desert Donuts more comfortable, with the addition of booths, televisions and Thor’s hammer.

“They always say to do what you enjoy,” he says. “I just didn’t know it was going to be this industry. I’m a big comic book fan. I have Thor’s hammer on the shelf. Sometimes I take the hammer down and say, ‘Are you worthy?’

“The kids will try to lift it. It’s 25 pounds. They’re so excited when they can lift it. Then we have a chemo center nearby and the patients are encouraged to have sugar afterward. It’s awesome help people out in a rough time in their life. If I see a mother with kids, I’ll put cartoons on the television to give her a few moments of peace.”  

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