A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Donuts rule the night; popular Moonrise Doughnuts in Latonia closes in on one-year anniversary

By Kevin Eigelbach
NKyTribune reporter

Doughnuts. They’re not just for breakfast anymore.

At least not at Moonrise Doughnuts.

Owner Keith Bales stands beside a rack of freshly made doughnuts at Moonrise Doughnuts, his soon-to-be-one-year-old store in Latonia (photo by Kevin Eigelbach).

The shop at 3718 Winston Ave. in Covington’s Latonia neighborhood opened in August 2017 serving freshly baked donuts in the evening. It’s open from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and from 6 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

So far, said owner Keith Bales, 57, people really seem to like the idea.

The shop sells about 130 dozen doughnuts every day to customers from as far away as Cincinnati and southeastern Indiana, he said. The demand recently prompted him to replace the deep fryer he’d been using with a larger one, specifically for doughnut making.

It’s twice as much business as he expected when he opened the place, he said, and it’s all happened with his only advertising being word of mouth or social media. The shop has 6,200 Facebook and 1,000 Instagram followers, he said.

His No. 1 seller is probably a simple glazed doughnut, but his staff of a dozen employees is always coming up with new creations, such as a green tea doughnut or a pina colada doughnut. The staff cannot make enough cinnamon rolls, he said, demand for which has been so strong he has to limit how many one customer can purchase at a time.

The shop does special orders almost every day, he said, for events such as parties, meetings and even weddings, where the doughnuts are stacked into towers or hung on peg walls. The vast majority of its business comes over the counter, however.

His customers come from all age groups.

Moonrise Donuts, located at 3718 Winston Avenue, is part of a Renaissance in Latonia that also includes Bard’s Burgers and other small businesses (provided photo).

Parents with families will stop by after dinner for dessert. Working people will stop by to pick up doughnuts to take to the office in the morning. Millennials, who love to support independent small businesses, stop by near closing time and stay afterward.

At least once a day, a customer will mention the former Latonia Bakery, which sold hot donuts in the evening until the ‘80s. Many of them tell Bales that they grew up eating those donuts, just as he did.

“When you had been out in the evening, and wanted a little snack before you go home, you would just pull in, and go to the back doors, and the guys would sell you freshly made doughnuts,” said Cheryl Koller Amann, of Koller Realty in Edgewood.

In fact, this was the inspiration for Moonrise Doughnuts, which consciously courts those former Latonia Bakery customers with its slogan, “Taste the Memory.” The walls of the small shop, which has just five tables for customers, are covered with old photos of Covington that Bales had printed off the Kenton County Public Library’s website.

“I heard so many people reminisce about the Latonia Bakery,” he said. It prompted him to think, “Someone should try that again.”

When he started the business, Bales didn’t know anything about making doughnuts, but he’d had lots of experience as an entrepreneur. At 20, he began buying rental property. He’s owned several businesses since, and still owns Tag Team Services, a nuisance abatement and beautification business.

He also worked as director of code enforcement for the City of Covington and ran a regional detention center in Newport for juveniles for the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

You can still buy, on Amazon, the book he co-authored in 2006 called “The Green Tea Lifestyle: One Couple’s Discover of Healthy Weight Loss Without Dieting.”

He’s happy to be part of a little Renaissance in Latonia, he said, with restaurants like Bard’s Burgers & Chili getting featured on national food shows and planning to expand.

Real estate prices in the area have jumped up this spring, Koller said, because of a lack of inventory and because of interest from investors rehabbing homes. It’s a very walkable and affordable area, she added.

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com

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