Every morning there is a growing procession of followers to a new kingdom of sweets. Smiling minions depart with treasure chests in the form of bright yellow boxes in their arms. The coveted bounty inside: donuts the size of a linebacker's hand and apple fritters that resemble frisbees.
Last Friday, Hometown Market in Eustis began selling fresh donuts from Donut King, a Minneola donut shop recently rated one of the top 15 donut shops in the U.S.
The partnership was a natural. Hometown Market's customers clamored for fresh donuts daily and owner Jeremiah Hilliard was eager to appease them. Meanwhile, Donut King was able to produce both the quality and quantity needed to satiate their cult-like following. Loyalists regularly traveled across Lake County just to sink their teeth into one of these circular sensations.
The Eustis market brings in 20 to 30 fresh-baked varieties daily and sells out in the late afternoon. Flavors range from blinged-out varieties like "Fruity Pebbles," "Oreos" and "Gator Sprinkles" to decadent Key Lime or Maple Bacon; and there are also the plain-Jane glazed and chocolate glazed standards.
Donut King opened 7 years ago in Minneola and quickly became a landmark. It was the logical business for Lance Johnston, who grew up making the treat at his father's Louisiana donut shop. Two years ago, the second Donut King location opened in Winter Park. Today, the company makes between 300 to 400 dozen daily and rotates offerings among their 80-100 varieties.
"The response has been amazing," said Johnston. "It's nice to see people appreciate it. It takes a lot of work to turn out a good product."
Every day Hilliard has increased the market's order as the steady stream of sugar junkies from across northern Lake County makes the pilgrimage to his donut counter. Within its first week, Hometown Market is already selling from 40-50 dozen a day. The market will begin taking pre-orders next week and hopes to open earlier in the morning soon to accommodate customers that want to share their decadent vice with clients and co-workers.
Hometown Market is located at 401 Plaza Drive in Eustis and opens at 9 a.m.
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Above: Jeremiah Hilliard stocks the display case with fresh varieties every morning.