"Aberdeen has so much potential": Are doughnuts the key to city centre comeback?
Updated: Sep 20
Dough and Co, located on Belmont Street, is poised to be a favourite for students and city residents alike
By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco
The bearded man across the table from me lets out a yawn. It’s fair enough, we’ve been chatting for nearly 30 minutes.
My bacon maple doughnut and latte was consumed long ago.
You see, as an American, I’m awfully fond of doughnuts. Not the saccharine offerings of Krispy Kreme or the mushy ones you get out of Tesco, however.
Real doughnuts, hot and crispy, just the right blend of salty and sweet.
To be frank, it’s not something I associate with Scotland- certainly not Aberdeen.
That’s why my trip to Dough and Co was such a delight.
Speaking to the man behind the fryer, Stuart McPhee, was rather straightforward.
Ask a question and let him chat awa’ - the perfect situation for a journalist hungry for good quotes (and doughnuts, of course)
For Stuart, who's run Siberia Bar and Hotel (conveniently located next door) for a decade, the customer experience is everything.
"There's no point presenting yourself as a five star resort and then [customers] come in and get one star service,” he tells me.
"Both the product and the experience have to be consistent. This is built around experience, being able to see your doughnut being made, being able to see everything behind the counter."
From doughnuts to ice cream, there's something for everyone
“Walk me through the shop,” I ask, expecting a sentence or two.
Instead, Stuart launches into a detailed list of customisable food and beverage options.
From breakfast doughnuts filled with bacon (meant to compete with the McMuffin, Stuart tells me), to bagels and pies at lunch, to ice cream and hot drinks, Dough and Co has an impressive menu.
And at reasonable prices (three pounds for a single doughnut, five pounds for a sandwich and coffee), it won’t break the bank either.
Almost as an afterthought, Stuart mentions the star attraction- dozens of bespoke doughnuts, cooked fresh and topped with a variety of sweet and savoury options.
Hungry students, rejoice! Dough and Co will be making an appearance at Freshers Fayre.
"If you've got socials or you have events that require donuts, just hit us up,” Stuart quips.
“We'll be able to deliver them to wherever your event is."
It’s not just about sweet treats.
As part of a one million pound investment, Stuart and his team are redeveloping the floors above the shop into several residential properties.
"It's an absolutely phenomenal structural and visual change to the space,” Stuart says.
"We're delighted to extend and take on a new project, with a new ethos…”
It’s this spirit of pragmatic positivity which Stuart believes is key to the revival of Aberdeen’s much-maligned city centre.
"Aberdeen needs a strong narrative"
"I think we've established that there's no silver bullet to solve the city centre's problems. I think there's a lot of positive momentum,” Stuart remarks.
Amidst a conversation ranging from bus gates to our rapidly changing world, it’s clear what he belives Aberdeen needs to get back on its feet.
"Aberdeen needs a strong narrative and commitment to a future that actually knows what it wants to look like- and takes everyone along with it,” the father of three says.
"You've got to create something that people want to engage with and want to move forward in."
"I want to see Aberdeen succeed,” he adds. “Collectively, I think it all boils down to that point. Aberdonians want to see a successful Aberdeen."
"Aberdeen has so much potential."
Stuart isn't the only person pushing for revitalisation on Belmont Street.
Jacob Campbell, founder of the Save the Belmont Cinema campaign, believes that the doughnut shop is exactly what the area needs to flourish.
He told us: 'The independent businesses on Belmont Street punch well above their weight in bringing footfall to our city centre.
'It's because of exciting and innovative new additions like Dough & Co that the street has cultivated a reputation as one of the 'go-to' streets in Aberdeen.
Jacob hopes that a community-run, independent cinema will soon join Dough and Co on the street.
Save the Belmont Cinema are currently preparing a bid to take over the Belmont Filmhouse site, which closed last October.
Jacob added: ‘I look forward to the day that a freshly reopened Belmont Cinema can help contribute towards that reputation again.'
It remains to be seen if the city centre can be restored to its former glory. But, if this is going to happen, it will be led by local businesses like those on Belmont Street.
Dough and Co will have its grand opening on Friday, 1st September at 8 am.
I’ll certainly be back.