The local staple has been at the forefront of creative marketing, giving away free donuts to customers willing to perform sometimes ridiculous acts.
Some of their most recent assignments, their “freebie of the day” as it’s sometimes called, include bringing in books written by female authors, reciting Beyoncé lyrics in the style of a classical drama, and showing the cashier an N64 controller you own.
These deals are usually announced through Facebook, and some bring in large crowds of people. I was told that from across the street, at the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, a lot of kids come rushing in around 2p.m. doing everything they can for a free donut.
The first question I had for the team at the front counter, who insisted that they were as familiar with the store’s marketing as anyone else in the building, was where these ideas came from. Excitedly, they told me about how they were all a part of the process, and everyone’s come up with at least one of their events.
Tessa Brower, recent hire and prospective VCU student, said “the puppy dog idea was one that was mine, and they ran with it while I wasn’t here which made me really sad.”
That promotion challenged customers to bring in an image of their adorable puppies and they’d receive free donut of their choosing.
“We had one where we collaborated with the managers, who love Harry Potter, and had people bring in their Harry Potter books,” said Brower.
For some of their events, they’ll do more than listen to lyrics and check out cute animal pictures. On January 23rd, they posted a message to their Facebook page:
“Bring in a non-perishable food item or a hygiene product to donate to the food bank today and get a free house donut!”
108 Likes and 13 Shares later, they’d amassed a large sum of donations. They shared with me a story of a woman who’d gone to the Kroger just down the street and bought two grocery bags full of canned goods. Despite the generous donation, however, she insisted on getting only one free donut.
You have to wonder if – with Sugar Shack practically throwing free donuts to their customers – are there any loss in profits? That question elicited a confused look from the workers, as if nobody working the counter had ever considered that aspect of it.
They all seemed to be happy to be giving out treats and seeing what their customers were willing to bring in. They did concede that usually people pick up a second or third donut, with maybe a coffee on the side.
That wasn’t that surprising though, as I tried going in on somewhat professional business and wound up dropping $1.25 on a caramel chai donut that tasted incredible.