Story By: Layne Randolph // Photos Courtesy of Dirty Girl Donuts
Maple Bacon and Girl Scout Cookies
When asked for the most popular donut flavor, Marisa Wondolleck immediately exclaimed, “Maple bacon!” The choice could not have been easy. Marisa’s “Dirty Girl Donuts” displays an incredible selection of flavors that rotate monthly with the seasons and holidays. From caramel apple to rose water hearts, this one-woman band has made her small business happen despite natural disasters, global pandemics, and the fact that she started the venture only five years ago, in her early twenties.
Born and raised in Sonoma County, Marisa is the founder and owner of this little bakery that could. She attended pastry school in Santa Rosa, then worked for bakeries in northern California, focusing on catering weddings until she decided to open her shop in Cobb, Lake County. To supplement her wedding catering income, she introduced custom donuts and found her culinary and artistic calling. Her signature fluffy dough, innovative flavors, and intricate decorations made her donut shop an instant success.
Then began a series of unfortunate events that tested her mettle. After wildfires forced her neighbors and customers to leave her bakery’s northern California community, the shop was forced to close. Luckily, Sonoma’s Best Hospitality Group, a real estate group that owns Cornerstone, Sonoma Depot, and Cheese Factory, invited Dirty Girl Donuts to open a shop in Sonoma with their backing.
“I was ready to sell the business and hang up my baker’s cap before they asked me to partner with them,” Marisa admitted. In March 2021, she opened Dirty Girl Donuts just off Sonoma’s Square. Within two weeks, Covid-19 was upon us.
Like so many, she improvised. She operated from a mobile cart outside the business when restrictions kept her shop immobilized. Dirty Girl Donuts’ online ordering and pick-up option soared. And all the while, she continued innovating and adding more unique and delicious items to her menu, for which Dirty Girl Donuts has become known.
In March, she aids the Girl Scouts by buying up their stock for her creations: Thin Mint, Lemon Shortbread, Samoas, and Smores donuts are offered in honor of the annual fundraising event. In May, she turns to flavors like honey, lavender, and rose, and in June’s fruit season, she incorporates tastes of watermelon, strawberry, and other in-season fruits.
Beyond the fantastic flavor offerings, the donuts are beautiful visual art pieces. They are a treat for the eyes as well as the senses. These days, Marisa’s main struggle is finding staff to help her in the business—a problem confronting the entire service industry. “Some people aren’t looking for careers anymore; they want to stay home and make TikToks,” Marisa joked.
She has raised Dirty Girl Donut’s hourly rate well above the minimum to attract candidates with her mentality: entrepreneurs wanting to learn the business and grow with it or, like her, maximize the experience to become tenacious small business owners themselves someday.
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