Cloudy Donuts, the first Black-owned food business in Brooklyn Heights, celebrated its one year anniversary today at 14 Columbia Place.
Since opening its doors in Willowtown, Cloudy Donuts has turned a quiet, off-the-beaten-path block into a sensational, buzzy, Instagram and Tik Tok-worthy destination, where people from all over the City and beyond come for the donuts, the vibe, and the uplifting and inspiring energy of its owners, Derrick Faulcon (pictured above) and Zewiditu Jewel.
Derrick opened his first two donut shops in Baltimore, MD, where he was born and raised, to impressive success. Then, with Zewiditu, Derrick’s partner in love, life and business, Cloudy Donuts planted another root in Brooklyn Heights. Currently, they are building out a new location in Soho.
Since opening in Brooklyn Heights, Cloudy Donuts has amassed much press coverage and rave reviews from Time Out New York, the Wall Street Journal, The Infatuation, Brooklyn Magazine, BK Reader, PIX11, and more.
The donuts are small batched, gourmet, 100% vegan (no eggs, no dairy, no animal byproducts), and absolutely delicious. These vegan delights are worth the hype and the hike from wherever the many customers travel every weekend. The menu rotates every week, with this past week’s menu including sweet potato pie, lemon blueberry poundcake, strawberry champagne, blueberry sage, cookie butter, salted caramel whiskey, bananas foster and creme brûlée.
This business means business. Not only are they expanding locations, Zewiditu works to engage collaborations with brands such as Oatly, which is known as the original oatmilk company. This duo’s hustle is just head-spinning. Check out their Instagram and you will see what that means.
BHB spoke with Zewiditu (pronounced Zody-2) for an interview designed specially for Brooklyn Heights.
BHB: How did you and Derrick meet and what led you to open your first donut shop in Baltimore?
Zewiditu: Derrick and I met at a music festival in Washington D.C. called Broccoli City Fest in 2018 and in 2019, we reconnected. It was truly love at first sight and in fact, the entire donut story is kind of like a full-circle love story. Derrick acquired the brand from a pre-existing donut shop. In 2020, changed the name and kept the same integrity of the dough and expanded the menu. I came on to the brand at that time, starting with pre-orders on social media and blossomed into all of the things since we’ve been open. We, of course, opened in Baltimore because that is where Derrick is from.
BHB: How did you find your Brooklyn Heights location and why did you decide on Brooklyn Heights as the place to expand your business?
Zewiditu: Derrick is an avid researcher of land, because he owns quite a bit of real estate in Baltimore. So, we were actually staying in Cobble Hill when we were looking for spaces, first in Cobble Hill and after a late night driving around the neighborhood, he stumbled upon a beautiful place in Willowtown, Brooklyn Heights. The rest is really history and it was really important for me once we signed our lease, that I connect with the Willowtown Association. I really connected with Linda DeRosa, who spearheads that group, as well as our neighbors. On Oct 20, 2022, we had a private event for just our neighbors to get acclimated with the product. Before we opened, for the first three weeks, we were just making donuts and giving them out for free.
BHB: Why vegan donuts and what adjustments did you have to make in the recipes as opposed to traditional donuts?
Zewiditu: To be honest, there is no real reason why we chose vegan donuts. I know people want to hear this amazing story about it. As I said, Derrick had acquired a pre-existing donut shop. He’d been going there for quite a few months for R&D (research and development), and he thought the product was amazing. I also really liked the donuts. I’m not a person who loves sweets and I was blown away. So, we wanted to keep the integrity of the dough and why not vegan? I mean, if there’s a way you can use vegan butter, because Earth Balance does exist, instead of traditional butter. We know people within the Black, Brown, and Asian communities are plagued with heart disease and diabetes. We can provide a healthier alternative and that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do. It was just about finding a quality product and sticking with it.
BHB: You’ve made your Brooklyn Heights shop a destination where people come from all over. To what do you attribute the incredible success you’ve had on a quiet street that’s so off-the-beaten-path?
Zewiditu: To be honest, the product is ridiculous, it’s wild, it’s amazing. You can’t take that away from the donut itself. Now, all the work that you see put into it, all the people that are coming out, how we’re getting into the community, how we’re engaging with social media, press, how we’re pursuing partnerships. That is totally credited to who we are as founders and I think a lot of times, people think, “oh if you build it, they will come.” But we also have to do a lot of hustle. We absolutely attribute some of our success to who we are and this is only the beginning for us. We are so happy that people are coming to Brooklyn Heights for the first time, seeing the neighborhood and falling in love with the neighborhood, and that’s the goal.
BHB: You’re opening a second NY shop in Soho. Congrats! What more do you envision for your business in the coming years?
Zewiditu: We are so excited to open up in Soho. We really want to keep it here to two stores in New York. This is what I’m saying today. Our Brooklyn Heights shop will be our O.G. flagship shop. It’s going to always have our staple items. The Soho shop is going to give you something a bit different. We’re excited to have two offerings. So, you can be any type of person and find yourself in a Cloudy Donut.
BHB: How would you describe your experience as a business owner in Brooklyn Heights so far?
Zewiditu: I am so thankful to be in the subset of Brooklyn Heights which is Willowtown, because Linda, the President of the Willowtown Association, has been amazing. She’s been just so supportive. The Brooklyn Heights Association has also been very helpful, and we work with community and local schools as well. We would love for our neighbors to come down and try our new products, not to get swayed by the lines. I know sometimes people don’t want to wait on lines, but that means there’s a great product on the other side. I’m not really sure what the neighborhood thought of us before we opened, but I think we made it very clear who we are and what we stand on. And we’re happy to continue to push those beautiful narratives about reverse gentrification, as well as creating opportunity for all walks of life and changing the world one donut at a time.
Cloudy Donuts’ current hours are Fri – Sun, 10 am – 4 pm.
Photos courtesy Cloudy Donuts.