This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper
Grindstone Coffee & Donuts first opened its doors at 7 Main Street in Sag Harbor on August 1, 2016, and has proven to be a delicious indulgence East Enders can’t get enough of. Owner Kyle Shanahan grew up in Ohio, dreaming of opening a café. He dropped out of college, twice, to pursue this dream. It was upon visiting his parents’ summer home in Wainscott that he decided to move to East Hampton in 2012.
“As soon as I got here I knew this is where I needed to be. It’s so quiet and beautiful in the off-season, and so lively in the summer. I love the balance,” Shanahan said.
The rent of East Hampton storefronts proved cost prohibitive for Shanahan. He bought an RV to scope the country for places to settle and sold as many possessions as he could for the start-up money. With a fortunate turn of events, the space at 7 Main Street in Sag Harbor became available, a location seen as a home run by Shanahan.
Since the area was already saturated with coffee shops, he took a unique approach, donuts — a concept that was already familiar to him.
Long-time friend Brett Eskra, frequently seen behind Grindstone’s front counter, would venture with Shanahan in the Cleveland suburbs, where donut shops were plentiful.
“Our favorite was a place called Donut Pantry. It has the little counter for old people to sit and read the newspaper, and all the walls are stained yellow from decades of cigarette smoke. It’s awesome,” Shanahan reminisced. “I tried getting a job there when I was 15, but I guess I wasn’t qualified.”
Creating flavors at his donut shop is a team effort and very causal. Shanahan flips through a “flavor bible” and waits for inspiration. Try Shanahan’s favorite, a Boston Cream with homemade pastry cream, dark chocolate glaze, and cocoa nib, or the fan favorite, Cinnamon Sugar, to perfectly complement your cup of coffee.
The brioche dough, made in small batches of 125 donuts each, is made of 83 percent butterfat, eggs, milk, salt, sugar, and fresh yeast. It then goes through a 24-hour fermentation process, is hand cut, and fried every few hours to maintain freshness. All toppings are made in-house.
The shop has sold 150 donuts a day during off season and a record 2200 one hectic summer day. Other flavor staples are the Classic Glaze, Chocolate Sprinkles, Lemon Poppy, and S’mores. Stop in during the afternoon hours and potentially snag a complimentary, day-old donut (which still tastes better than any generic brand donut). The roster of edible heaven rotates often, popping up new themes around the holidays. For example, for St. Patrick’s Day, a Chocolate Guinness Stout glaze, with Bailey’s Irish cream graces the menu.
Proud of his upbringing, Shanahan explained the name Grindstone comes from a little piece of family history. Shanahan’s grandfather worked in Berea, Ohio, a town that once held the largest grindstone manufacturing quarry.
Shanahan recalled, “When I was little, my grandmother and I would hike through the river where the workers tossed the remnants of broken grindstones and carving stones. I would hunt for them as if they were ancient treasure. It’s one of my favorite memories.”
Grindstone is open year-round. “I always took it so personally that places come here in June to leach money out of the tourists, then give a middle finger to the locals as soon as Labor Day is over,” Shanahan explained. “Even during the crazy apocalyptic blizzards that shut down the rest of town, we open at 6 AM so people can come in.”
Entering Grindstone’s doors makes as indelible an impression as exiting them. The vibe of the shop is a direct expression of Shanahan himself, a mix of old school donut shop and an extension of his “vintage minimalist” apartment. Grindstone features a diner-esque style board and white counters, and a 1940s-era TV fitted with a new screen plays classics such as “Twilight Zone” or Betty Boop cartoons. The walls display local artwork for sale, something to keep the decor fresh and community driven.
Designs, like coffee beans, donuts, and skulls, are featured on Grindstone’s signature cup sleeves. It’s a twist on a classic donut shop, where edgy details meet Sag Harbor charm.
What goes better with donuts than coffee? Books! Enjoy reading from the shop’s mini library as you sit, or bring a book of your own to exchange with one on the shelf. Grindstone merch is also available.
With three collaborations recently announced, Grindstone Coffee & Donuts is staying ahead of the game before the warmer weather sets in. It is offering coffee from Stumptown Roasters. Ace Coffee Co. cold brew, brewed in Patchogue, is now on tap. The shop also carries Kombucha from Montauk company Monbrewcha, for those seeking a healthier beverage alternative.
Grindstone Coffee & Donuts is located at 7 Main Street in Sag Harbor. Call 631-808-3370. Stay updated, and hungry, by following its Instagram @grindstonecoffee.