As the city around them has changed in ways only natives can comprehend, Charlotteans Alex Beebe and Nate DeVillers have been spent the last 6 years on a project of their own—dreaming, conceptualizing and finally bringing to fruition their vision of Pepperbox Doughnuts.
“We grew up here, where yeast-raised doughnuts were part of the culture,” said DeVillers, co-owner of Pepperbox Doughnuts. “Alex and I loved working together and started developing a whole host of recipes and concepts. And in 2016, when we struck on a doughnut recipe that was amazing, we decided to go for it.”
DeVillers said it was the architecture, a mixture of old and new in South End, that drew him and his business partner to opening a spot there. DeVillers has been around town since the beginning of South End’s revitalization back in the 1990s. The renovation of the old Nebel Stocking mill brought in The Spaghetti Warehouse, a nationwide chain that boasted an eclectic décor to an otherwise highly-avoided South Boulevard. DeVillers has fond memories of visiting the restaurant as a child prior to its closing in 2002.
And now, Beebe and DeVillers’ brainchild will sit just across the alleyway of their childhood stomping grounds.
“The building is pre-prohibition,” DeVillers said. Exposed brick and historic window panes work beautifully alongside their design concept featuring earth tones and rich wood. Eccent Design conceptualized the build out with care, hoping to mirror Pepperbox’s care in doughnut production.
Local artist Sarah Pollock is helping pull together the entire concept with a yet-to-be-revealed menu design.
Pepperbox gets its name from a legend of a sea captain cutting out the soggy middles of fried cakes with a tin pepperbox. Beebe and DeVillers have gotten their feet wet in the doughnut business with pop-ups around town at Tip Top Daily Market on The Plaza and other businesses they can now consider neighbors.
“For us, South End feels like the first real ‘big-city’ neighborhood in Charlotte. We have (and still do) several pop-ups here at Red Clay Ciderworks and Lenny Boy Brewing. We love the culture, the ease of pedestrian access and the amazing restaurants that are opening up near us,” DeVillers said.
DeVillers and Beebe hope to create more than just a doughnut shop—they want to give back to the community through non-profit partnerships, with a well-treated and cohesive staff, and by providing quality doughnuts, handmade in small batches.
So what flavors can we expect from these carefully crafted confections?
“We will have a great array of classic flavors—glazed, sprinkles, Boston cream. But in terms of specialty flavors, we intend to have a rotating menu,” DeVillers said. He added that they will open with flavors that fans loved from the pop-ups, like S’mores and Milk Chocolate Toffee Crunch. “My personal favorite on the opening menu is the Black Miso Caramel, and Alex’s is the Peanut Butter Oreo.”
“We always have an amazing array of vegan offerings. I think Alex has redefined just how good a vegan product can taste,” he continued, “and I’m excited to see what else he whips up in the future for those with dietary restrictions. We’ll also have quite a few alternative milks on hand for our beverage program.”
Beebe and DeVillers plan on brewing Counter Culture Coffee, including nitro and cold brew coffees. Patrons can also expect house made soda, with flavors like Iced Honey Lemon Yerba Mate, and Iced Sweet Oolong Tea with Orange Blossom Water and Honey, as well as vegan chocolate for mix-ins.
Opening a business of this type, though fun at its core, has its challenges. But DeVillers said they have found support in family, loved ones and other area business owners through this “long, arduous and stressful process.”
Now that they’ve gotten over the hump of opening up their flagship location, they have big plans of expanding with intention. As members of the Piedmont Culinary Guild, the duo hopes to source for local farms whenever possible and remain committed to the local community. Otherwise, DeVillers said, they’d just be another corporate chain.
As for finishing the process and reflecting on the support and lessons learned along the way? DeVillers has got nothing but love. “’Grateful’ is too paltry of a word to express how we feel.”
You can find Pepperbox Doughnuts from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 101 W. Worthington Ave., across from Jeni’s Ice Creams in the pedestrian alleyway on Camden Road. Follow @pepperbox_doughnuts on Instagram for official opening information.