Ryley’s Donuts Is Sweet Business for Young Entrepreneur
Twenty-one-year-old Ryan Shilling has opened his first business, Ryley’s Donuts, in his hometown of Little Egg Harbor. The young man remembers going on family trips where his father, Ken, would make a beeline to country fairs or food truck festivals, anywhere where there was a chance to savor a treat. “My husband has a sweet tooth,” explained Ryan’s mother, Robin Shilling. “He can eat his way through a park!”
All this culinary exploring on family trips gave Ryan a chance to ponder what type of business he would like to open. He decided the make-your-doughnut-to order craze would be a perfect start-up. “We saw one in Lancaster, and it seemed like it would be fun,” he said. “And I wanted to start small.”
Having only one item on the menu, though, is a misnomer, as the doughnuts can be finished at least 15 different ways: glazed, sugared, frosted, filled with crèmes or jelly, topped with sprinkles, coconut, cookie pieces, peanuts, Cocoa Pebbles, and coffee cake strudel.
“It’s like Build a Bear – only it’s doughnuts,” said his friend and employee Joey Lunn.
Just now, the coffee cake strudel doughnut is the most popular, followed closely by Boston crème.
“We are always looking to expand the choices, and we do specials on Monday and Fridays – like maple bacon or a white crème,” said Ryan.
The machine that fries the doughnuts is an automated line that plops the doughnut-shaped batter into a vat of vegetable shortening to cook. Then Ryan or Joey spoons them out on racks to await the orders based on the tastes of the customers. The hopper can hold 90 doughnuts at a time.
“You have to practice. The temperature of the water and the temperature in the room has to be just right or they don’t come out right,” said Ryan. “Joey eats the mistakes.”
Ryan said he took home economics offered in Pinelands Regional High School with Mr. Lavin. He graduated in 2013 and went on to get his associate’s degree at Ocean County College, where he took some business classes.
“I knew I wanted to start my own business, and my family has helped me out. We visited places and I saw that Little Egg didn’t have anything like this; the closest one is half an hour away.”
The small shop is located at 455 Route 9 South and tucked into the side of the AtlantiCare and Lighthouse Church building. “It’s perfect for a take-out business,” continued Ryan. “I knew I wanted to be on Route 9, and we (the family) did all the improvements inside. It took about four months to get ready, and now we’re rolling.”
The business name is a conjunction of Ryan and his little sister Bailey’s names. Bailey helps out on the weekends.
The shop also offers premium Lacas coffee. You might stop just for a coffee, but the smell of frying pastry makes it hard to resist indulging in a doughnut or two.
“You can call on your way to work and order your doughnut and coffee just as you like it,” said employee Irelynn Byrnes.
The shop also takes orders for parties, and every other Friday the crew sends six dozen over to Ryan’s alma mater, Pinelands Regional, for its Interact Club to use as a fundraiser.
Ryley’s Donuts is open six days a week: from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays (closed Wednesdays) and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Just one of the bonuses of working for himself? “I don’t dread coming to my job,” he said.
— Pat Johnson