Peace, Love and Little Donuts Grows Nationwide

    On any given day, visitors strolling along Smallman Street in the Strip District are greeted with an instantly recognizable aroma: the enticing smell of hot, fresh donuts wafting through the doors of Peace, Love and Little Donuts.

    The business, which bills itself as “the grooviest donut shop this side of the Milky Way,” opened its doors to patrons in 2009. Originally located in a small, 204-square-foot storefront on Smallman Street that forced customers to line up outside, the shop relocated right next door, to the corner of 21st and Smallman, in December. The renovated storefront features plenty of seating inside and outside, bathrooms, and more counter space to work.

    Founder Ron Razete says that the concept for Peace, Love and Little Donuts was conceived in “chunks.” “What started as a potential way for my wife to leave her career as a flight attendant and spend more time with our children eventually became a way for our family to pay our bills,” says Razete, 57.

     Peter Savani and Brittany Kessler making donuts at the Strip District store.

    Peter Savani and Brittany Kessler making donuts at the Strip District store.

    He says that he and wife Marci choose the Strip District for the business’s first location because of how vibrant the neighborhood is. Today, Peace, Love and Little Donuts has nearly 30 locations in 9 states, including 11 in Pennsylvania and 9 in Ohio. All but four of the locations are franchises.

    Chief Operating Officer Jeff Bennett says that more stores throughout the country are expected to open this spring, including one in Peters Township, Nashville, Buffalo, Lexington, the Dallas and Denver suburbs, and Ohio.

    “We get about 30 new leads a week from people who are interested in opening stores,” says Bennett, who’s been with the company for three years. “We don’t have to do anything to actively pursue those leads. Most of the people who come to us have either lived here, or have visited here, and maybe have retired to a different location and want to open a store.”

    Aside from the fun and funky vibe, the store’s focus on freshness is part of its appeal. “Some donut shops make donuts the night before, some in the wee hours of the morning the day of. Some make them and freeze them and thaw them as needed. We didn’t have the room to do any of that! Because the shop was so small, we had to make donuts continuously throughout the day to keep up with demand,” Razete says.

    “Customers prefer freshly made donuts. We were just blessed to discover that our only possible method for making donuts is the best method,” he adds. “Despite some mistakes and missteps, we rarely disappoint people who come later in the day who might find other donut shops to be either out of donuts altogether or out of the ones patrons prefer. We continue to make donuts to ensure that we aren’t ‘out’ of donuts. We decorate them and top them as you order them to ensure the best combination of warm donuts and warm frosting and toppings.”

    The store is known for its colorful, creative toppings, which range from basic, frosted donuts to “Funkadelic” donuts adorned with unconventional toppings like Maple Bacon, Apple Pie, Cherry Cheesecake, Snick Jagger, and Fruity Pebbles. Razete’s family, including his wife and five children, create most of the topping combinations. The majority of donuts are made with an old-fashioned sour cream batter, but they also use chocolate, blueberry, pumpkin, and red velvet batters.

    The smaller size of the donut was the result of a mistake with the machinery, explains Bennett. No matter how hard they tried, they could not get the machine to produce a standard size donut—but soon found that the problem was a blessing in disguise.

    “We lucked into it, because people seemed to prefer the smaller donut. They could eat an entire donut and not feel guilty,” Bennett says with a laugh.

    Looking ahead, Razete wants to continue to introduce Peace, Love and Little Donuts to new areas.

    “My goal is to find people who would be a blessing to us and who would be blessed by owning one or more of our franchise locations,” Razete says. “I really enjoy the people I work with, so it’s exciting to think that we may continue to grow and find our way.”

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    Jennifer Brozak is a freelance writer from North Huntingdon who has a passion for all things Pittsburgh. She contributes to a variety of local and national outlets, and blogs about her family’s escapades at
    Photography by Greger Erickson