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What is Britt’s Donut Shop?

Ben Steelman

Doughnut fanciers from as far away as Durham will travel especially to Pleasure Island to sample the joys of Britt’s Donut Shop, 11 Boardwalk, Carolina Beach. A local institution since 1939, when H.L. Britt opened the stand, it’s beloved for aficionados for its trademark glazed donuts. (Don’t spell it “doughnut.” And don’t ask for sprinkles or creme filling. This isn’t that kind of a doughnut shop.)

Fans swear the Britt’s secret recipe beats Krispy Kreme plumb hollow. In 2008, the MSN City Guides listed Britt’s as the second-best doughtnut in the entire United States. Locals will drive down and buy bags by the dozen for parties. What makes it special, connoisseurs agree, is the glaze, made according to a strictly guarded recipe.

Bobby Nivens, who began working at the stand back in the 1950s, bought the stand from the Britts in 1974 and has operated it with his wife Maxine ever since. The menu consists entirely of glazed doughnuts, coffee, milk and fountain soft drinks — nothing else.

Britt’s is literally one of a kind. The Britts operated a satellite doughnut stand in downtown Wilmington during World War II, and the Nivenses briefly considered launching a location in Gatlinburg, Tenn., but they deliberatly chose to avoid the franchise route. The staff, generally around seven workers, is exceptionally loyal, often starting work in high school and returning year after year.

Britt’s is a seasonal operation. It opens for weekends only, generally the weekend of the N.C. Azalea Festival. Starting Memorial Day weekend, it opens seven days a week, from 8:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. (maybe 10:30 p.m. if things are slow) daily. After Labor Day, it reverts to the weekend-only schedule, shutting down for the winter at the beginning of October.

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