Offers big taste in small bites
By Aaron Tanner
Whether you’re a Bigfoot believer or you shun Sasquatch, if you like sweet treats, Huntsville has just the place for you.
Bigfoot’s Little Donuts serves hot and fresh tiny versions of the sweet breakfast staple. Serving the Huntsville area since 2014, the business is popular with both locals and out-of-towners. The shop has even been featured on the Food Network, thanks to a visit from “Cake Boss” star chef Buddy Valastro.
Inside the store, a giant statue of Bigfoot greets those looking for a sugar fix along with a shelf featuring various Bigfoot-themed items for sale, including hand-crafted coffee mugs, air fresheners, and journals. Past the wall covered with photos of customers – wearing T-shirts and caps with the store’s logo in various vacation spots – is a chalkboard highlighting different homemade donut flavors.
Some of the more popular daily flavors include cinnamon roll, Nutella with strawberry, salted caramel, maple glaze, Fruity Pebbles, banana pudding, and weekly specials such as wedding cake and red velvet. “Right now, we have over 60 donut flavors,” owner Brian Steele says. “Any given day, there are 35 to 40 different flavors on the menu to choose from.”
Ingredients come from different local suppliers, with the dough prepped by employees before and after operating hours and throughout the day. Each dozen donut order cooks in one to two minutes only after the customer orders either in-person or online to ensure a fresh treat. “Our process does increase wait times, but having a good product is worth a few extra minutes,” Steele explains.
Food truck beginnings
The idea for combining Bigfoot with donuts came from a combination of marketing, a movie and fate. While in college, Steele saw a docudrama about Bigfoot sightings around Texarkana, Texas, called “The Legend of Boggy Creek.” “Not the best movie, but it would put you (to sleep),” Steele says.
Years later, Steele and his wife were intrigued by a vendor who made cinnamon sugar mini donuts at an event. Though he was working as an Army contractor at Redstone Arsenal, Steele thought he could renovate a food truck, sell mini donuts and make a profit, thanks to his other side job, constructing houses. “My wife and I both thought a food truck with lots of different flavored hot-mini donuts would do well in Huntsville,” Steele says.
After purchasing a food truck and selling donuts during the morning four days a week, Steele bought an additional Airstream trailer to keep up with business growth. He found a Bible with an inscription of the Airstream’s former location of Texarkana, Texas – one of the filming locations of “The Legend of Boggy Creek,” the movie he’d seen years before.
And there’s another Bigfoot-related coincidence that made Steele think they were on the right path. “The actor who played Bigfoot in the TV show ‘Harry and the Hendersons’ was named Brian Steele, just like me,” he says.
The donut-making Steele stayed busy, operating a donut shop out of the Airstream (complete with outdoor seating) and using the food truck for special events, all while doing his Army contracting job. “The Airstream was a unique space,” he says. “There were not many walk-in/sit-down food trucks operating in the South at that point.” Business eventually did well enough that Steele quit his government job and focused solely on his passion.
In 2018, Steele opened a permanent location. Testing the waters with a food truck was a fun experiment without the risks involved with operating a physical building. “Food trucks provide a tremendous opportunity to get proof-of-concept without the giant expenditure of a brick-and-mortar location,” Steele says.
Like most businesses, the pandemic greatly affected Bigfoot’s Little Donuts; the shop had to reduce hours and transition to takeout. Steele also cut costs by taking a pay cut so his employees could continue working and cover business-related expenses. “Bigfoot cut his salary 50% while we reduced hours to only high-demand, and cut costs where we could,” he says.
Despite the uncertain economic times, Steele opened a second location in Madison in July 2020, thanks to tremendous customer support and not taking on debt with the new store. “The patrons at both locations are great and have supported us throughout,” he says.
Steady growth, no debt, and a good product have helped Bigfoot’s Little Donuts thrive during challenging times.
Although Steele eventually sold the food truck and trailer, he still enjoys making donuts, getting to know customers in a fun atmosphere, and overseeing many young, enthusiastic workers. “Making donuts is enjoyable, but the best part by far is the connections you make with your customers and employees,” he says.
His long-term goal includes franchising Bigfoot’s Little Donuts locations into new markets. “Once the pandemic subsides, we will push harder towards expansion,” Steele says. “It is our hope that our brand continues to grow.”
Bigfoot’s Little Donuts
7914 Memorial Parkway, SW, Huntsville, AL 35802
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday;
6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday;