When late evening rolls around — rain, snow, sleet or humidity — the smell of freshly made sugary donuts wafts through the air in downtown Newton.That’s thanks to Druber’s Donut Shop, 116 W. Sixth St., which opens its doors most nights at 11:30 p.m., unless the Norris family that runs the place is on vacation.
When late evening rolls around — rain, snow, sleet or humidity — the smell of freshly made sugary donuts wafts through the air in downtown Newton.That’s thanks to Druber’s Donut Shop, 116 W. Sixth St., which opens its doors most nights at 11:30 p.m., unless the Norris family that runs the place is on vacation.“I love their donut(s),” Candy M. of Atlanta, Ga., wrote on Yelp.com. “Everything tastes great. The peanut butter glazing is heavenly delicious. Muffins are first rate. It reminds me of a summertime. Now, I'm 1,300 miles away from Newton, and I miss it so much. Sure, I have Krispy Kreme right around the corner, but nothing compares to homemade donut(s) and muffins I had at Druber's.”Many others agree with Candy’s assessment. In fact, Druber’s Donut Shop is featured on facebook.com with at least 600 fans listed, said Martin Norris, who owns Druber’s Donut Shop, along with his wife, Marilyn.On facebook, the shop is listed under “Druber’s Donuts Forever!” Some comments include:“I mean, come on, is there anything better than a good carmel nut roll and (an) OJ.? Druber’s was the place all through middle school and high school, well, and it is still good today when I make it back there.” — Brent Thomas, Alaska“The chocolate knot is the finest creation of man. Driving 20 miles into Newton to be there at 11:05 at night when they opened, the fresh knot still warm, the icing not yet set up, grab a cup of water from the ... timeless orange cooler on the shelf. Does life get any better?” — Brent Kroeker, Oklahoma City“I have been away from Hesston/Newton for nearly 10 years now and STILL have fond memories of Druber's! All my friends hear about it.” — Stacey Breeden, ParklandMany Friday nights, the place is filled with people from all walks of life, and it’s hard to find a place to sit.“That’s the busiest night of the week,” Norris said.There’s Newton High School fans after a big game or area college students looking to dive into the warm, delicious goodness. There are many other people, including Red Hat Society women, who stay for a couple of hours some Friday nights. And sometimes, there’s more socializing than donut eating.“Sometimes, we sell a lot of donuts, and sometimes we don’t,” Norris said.Norris said they are visited by people who have grown up eating Druber’s food, moved away and have come back to see if it’s still in business. They tell Norris it’s the only thing that doesn’t change when they come back home.In addition, Druber’s has a wide following of college students, coming from Tabor College, McPherson College, Hutchinson Community College, Kansas State (a donut run is made about twice a year), Emporia State, Wichita State, Bethel College, Hesston College, Friends University and Sterling College.The place also is busy mornings with individuals, groups — large and small — and families looking to fill their tummies with the delicious fried batter and liquid refreshment, whether it’s a steaming cup of coffee or fizzy pop. Druber’s also serves a lunch menu with pie, sandwiches, salad, soup and chips.A variety of informal groups meet at Druber’s at least weekly, if not almost daily. One such group arrives at 6 a.m. Mondays through Fridays and has been doing so for “a good 15 years” with some additions and subtractions to its membership, Norris said. It’s comprised of business owners, employees and retired folks.“It’s a very diverse group,” Norris said.Then at around 8:30 a.m., another group comes in, consisting mostly of retired people. That group stays until 9 or 9:30 a.m. and another group wafts in around 10 a.m. A group Norris calls “my professional table” shows up around 9 a.m. There are more groups, and all the groups have their own tables, each person has his or her own particular seat, and the groups get lost when someone else takes their tables, Norris said.“They try to have their own designations,” Norris said, smiling.The Norrises purchased the business in 1988, but the shop has been there since the 1972-73 era. During that time, the store took up the east half of its current location and then was expanded to its current size around 1985-86. One couple owned it for about its first year. Then Wayne Swartzendruber purchased it during its second year of operation. At the time, Swartzendruber owned a donut shop in El Dorado and was living in Hesston. The store didn’t have night hours until Swartzendruber’s son’s friends wanted donuts at night.The Norrises haven’t changed much in the 21 years they’ve owned the shop — just added paneling on some walls, redid the booths and changed photos on the walls. They also added pies, soups and sandwiches to the menu.“We haven’t really changed too much,” Norris said, saying they still have their 1970s-inspired decor.But the decor is part of part of what keeps people coming back and being loyal Druber’s customers. In fact on the facebook site, one topic is “Suggestions for the Druber’s Makeover HGTV-Help!” All comments on that topic from people say to keep Druber’s looking the same.“Repairs good. Renovate bad,” Ben Rogers wrote.The Norrises started making pies because The Breadbasket closed for a few years, and there was nowhere for the public to purchase pies in Newton, said Norris, who studied flour milling at Kansas State University.Making the pies and soups is Marilyn’s speciality.“She does the piecrust all from scratch,” Norris said, sitting in a booth.When they bought Druber’s, the Norrises didn’t change very much in the donut offerings.“When your customer recognizes it a certain way, don’t change it,” Norris said.They kept the squids and crabs, among other treats. The squid- and crab-shaped donuts are something that’s unique to Druber’s. They were designed to offer something crunchy to customers.Another thing they kept was the “donut table,” which is in the shape of a hexagon and sits six people. Druber’s yeast donuts are hexagon shaped, so the table reflects that. The table was designed by one of Swartzendruber’s sons. Druber’s yeast donuts are hexigon shaped because that shape allows for less product waste.Their most popular donuts are the raised yeast, followed by long johns and peanut butter rolls.Norris said he and his wife haven’t not gotten tired of eating donuts themselves, but “we usually don’t take the donuts home to have on the weekend.”During the week, they’ll snack on the wonderful treats.Druber’s hours are 11:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays through Friday afternoons and 11 p.m. Fridays to 11 a.m. Saturdays. When the Norrises go on vacation, the restaurant is closed.