The consensus is one of gratitude and relief. Locals cheer the reopening of iconic Frosty’s Donut and Coffee Shop on Maine Street in Brunswick. The proof is in the writing on their Facebook wall and in the Bowdoin student press. There are precious few institutions in this mad and fleeting world that endure through many generations. Frosty’s was a source of stability and comfort for the people of this town.
It was almost gone for good. In 2011, a few months after the death of his wife and partner June, Bob Frost closed up shop after forty-five years in business. New to the area last summer, we knew nothing of the history of this beloved landmark. We never broke our fast after an all-nighter on their glazed twists or passed a freezing winter morning reading religious tracts and sipping drip coffee warm inside.
Malcolm: I was drawn immediately to the Frosty’s facade when we first spotted it last year, the red plastic letters of the sign eye-catching anachronisms along Maine Street’s parade of slightly crunchy, Earthy storefronts. My first thought was that I wanted to purchase the empty restaurant and reopen it as a sandwich shop; a move, I can see now in retrospect, that would have resulted in my being promptly stoned to death by Frosty’s legion of loyal customers. And rightly so.
We were strolling downtown late last summer, looking for a place to breakfast with out-of-town friends, when we saw the sign. “Closed due to a death in the family + for sale,” the legend read. We were intrigued. We peered through the glass into the darkened doughnut shop, and marveled at wood-paneled walls and spare, Mid-Century booths. A rust-red, pointy roofed edifice with a striped awning and jaunty lettering, it looked like a storybook building where the butcher and candlestick maker could come for a hot cup of joe and a sweet bite to eat before they began each day, working their knives and lathes. Was it the end or only the beginning? By winter we had our answer.
Another husband and wife team have taken up where the Frosts left off. Nels Omdal and Shelby St. Andre bought the place, and started selling doughnuts and coffee again there this winter. We chatted briefly with Shelby, who told us business is good. We saw that for ourselves, as almost every booth was filled with customers, mostly older couples, who all looked happy and just where they ought to be. We decided to start with a half dozen, and see if that would be enough. A glazed. A cinnamon sugar cake. A Boston creme. A jelly filled. A chocolate coconut. A chocolate glazed. All neatly packed in a white bakery box with red printing.
Malcolm: Every single one of these donuts stands head and shoulders above the kind of bready, chemically-flavored, overly-sweetened round cakes you’ll find at competing local doughnut chains. While the chocolate glazed and the granulated sugared-jelly donuts were delicious, the old fashioned glazed doughnut was simply remarkable. It’s a doughnut so light and airy, that once you have picked it up, the doughnut has already started to collapse under the lightest pressure of your fingers. As much as I loved the other varieties, the simple glazed doughnut at Frosty’s is the only donut anyone needs. It is a revelation, that should be eaten early and often.
Frosty’s famously opens at four am. I love knowing that they’re there in the dark. In December when the trees sparkle with icicles and the silent streets are not yet unplowed, and in summer when in the quiet cool of the early morning, a person can collect her thoughts and prepare for the day ahead. I love thinking about the students who have studied all night, the elderly who can no longer sleep, the policemen and construction workers and nurses whose days begin and end at dawn, and frazzled new parents with unbrushed hair who’ve been up all night with a fussing baby who has decided that sleep is for the birds. Frosty’s is a safe haven of the early hours. If you must be to work or can’t take another momemt alone in your home, it is there, providing comfort, caffeine and sweetness. It’s a timeless neighborhood place in an ever-changing college town. I hope we’ll meet you there.