By Greg Hoersten
In the days leading up to Lent, Pat’s Donuts and Kreme undergoes a change of pastry as the doughnuts and filled sticks that normally fill the shelves are crowded out by paczkis.
“On Fat Tuesday, we’ll have nothing but paczkis. We might have a few doughnuts off to the side,” said Ed Ezzelle, who owns Pat’s along with his wife, Michelle. “It’s a supply-and-demand thing. I just can’t produce all the paczkis plus all the other doughnuts in a 16-hour day, because that’s about how long it’s taking us to make all the paczkis we need to fill our orders and supply our customers.”
Long a favorite way to get “one big last sugar rush in before Lent starts” in cities with large Polish-American populations, paczkis are like jelly doughnuts “on steroids” — a little bigger, a little thicker, with more milk, more butter, more flavorings, according to Ezzelle, who promised the paczki will be on the shelves by Feb. 1. Fat Tuesday falls on Feb. 9.
“It’s a big thing now in Lima,” he said.
It wasn’t always so.
“The first year we tried it (about a decade ago), we couldn’t give a paczki away,” said Ezzelle, a Delphos native who picked up a fondness for paczkis while working in Toledo. “We probably made 30 or 40 dozen for all our stores, but we couldn’t give them away. By year two, it started picking up a little bit. By year three, we couldn’t keep up. So, by year four, we knew what we were in for and now it’s our biggest day of the year. It’s something I have to start planning for weeks in advance.”
Ezzelle estimated Pat’s employees — the firm’s three locations employ 44 people — produce around 400 dozen doughnuts on a weekday with that number swelling to 750 to 800 dozen doughnuts on a Saturday.
“We’re doing close to 1,200 dozen (paczkis) for Fat Tuesday. We do all of our flavors. I came up with that idea. Most traditional paczkis are a prune flavor. We don’t do prunes,” he said. “If you’ve ever had prune juice, you kind of know what you’re getting into.”
Pat’s does do paczkis in butter cream, chocolate, vanilla, raspberry, lemon, blueberry and apple as well as Bavarian cream custard.
“This year, we might do cherry custard, being that February is cherry month,” Ezzelle said.
Ezzelle, who graduated from Delphos St. John’s in 1998 and later the University of Toledo, “grew up in the restaurant business.” His grandparents owned Nu-Maude’s restaurant in Delphos. When he married Michelle, who handles the administrative side of Pat’s, the couple decided to get into the restaurant business.
“Somehow, the good Lord led us down here to Lima and we purchased Pat’s,” he said.
The couple took over the business in 2005.
The Ezzelles bought Pat’s from Henry and Pat Iven, who opened the stores in 1983 after Henry Iven found himself out of work when the Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips restaurant chain closed. The Ivens owned two Arthur Treacher outlets in Lima. Henry named Pat’s after his wife.
“I would never change the name,” Ezzelle said. “When I bought the business, I bought the name. Henry has been a great mentor and friend for me. I’m driving the bus Henry built.”
He’s driving the bus well. Again this year, readers of The Lima News voted Pat’s doughnuts the best in the region.
Ezzelle credited Pat’s popularity to the hard work of the firm’s employees and the fact the doughnuts are made from scratch.
“Here, we have employees with a total of 125 years’ experience making doughnuts and they’ve just perfected it,” he said. “We take great pride and care in the doughnut, and I think that sets us apart from the average doughnut that you might get somewhere else.”
Greg Hoersten is a sort-of retired page designer and reporter for The Lima News who, occasionally, works as a freelance reporter. His stories normally appear on the Reminisce page on Wednesday in the News.
Pat’s Donuts & Kreme has three outlets in the Lima area.
All the pastry is produced at the shop at 2102 Elida Road, which is open 24 hours a day. In addition to pastry, sandwiches and pizza also are available.
“We make our own pizza dough and sometimes, especially on a Friday night, it feels like we’re a pizzeria making doughnuts,” owner Ed Ezzelle said. “The ‘Kreme’ actually stands for ice cream and we have ice cream in our stores as well.”
The shop at 662 Elida Ave. in Delphos offers the same menu items as the Elida Road location. It is open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., while the outlet at 1835 Harding Highway is open from 4 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Harding Highway location has only pastry and coffee.
Pat’s doughnuts also are available at Padrone’s Pizza shops in Wapakoneta and at South Dixie Highway and Breese Road, Kewpee restaurants, Circle K gas stations and “a lot of other little shops throughout the region,” according to Ezzelle.