DONUTS, DONUTS, DONUTS
Our son Augustus started his apple cider donut business when he was 7 years old. The donuts are made fresh everyday. Stop in on the weekends and Gus will be making them himself.
Apple Cider with Cinnamon Sugar
Time to make the donutsCatskill Mountain Country Store heeds the advice of a young entrepreneur
By Michael Ryan, Windham Journal Staff Writer
WINDHAM - Even in his youth, mountain topper Augustus Shuster exhibited all the signs, dollar signs that is, of being a merchandising genius.
"My son was always telling us we should bake and sell donuts," recalls his father, Drew Shuster, co-proprietor of the popular Catskill Mountain Country Store in Windham.
"He went on and on about it, constantly bugging my wife Natasha and me until we got the equipment. We had our doubts but it has worked out amazingly well. He definitely knew his stuff."
Augustus is eight years old now and a second-grader at Windham-Ashland-Jewett school, still just a kid even though his entrance into mercantilism seems somehow long ago.
|Raking in the dough, donut impresario Augustus Shuster has demonstrated a business savvy since early childhood, which for an 8-year-old second grader wasn't really all that long ago. Some of the round goodies baked fresh on the premises includes powdered, vanilla glazed, chocolate and chocolate sprinkle donuts, along with the House Special, Augustus' famous apple cider donuts.
Photo credit: Michael Ryan/Windham Journal
His enterprising spirit began to emerge when he was barely four, offering suggestions for bettering the family business. Later, in his kindergarten journals, he foretold his financial fate.
"My son wrote that donuts were going to be part of his future," dad says, smiling, having no way of knowing, back then, that what appeared to be merely sweet dreams was inevitable reality.
The boy's bank account has already reached three figures, minus the few hundred bucks spent on his first major venture. The success has been hard-earned.
Reaching into his own pocket, using money saved over his lifetime from birthday presents and doing chores, Augustus invested roughly half a grand in the purchase of the doughnut-making machinery.
He also demonstrates an ability to strike a deal. "I suggested he put up $750 and work with us in the bakery every weekend," dad says. "He offered $500 and working whenever he could."
A settlement was reached for $550, rolled over into a college fund, and the elementary school executive has more than held up his end of the bargain.
Virtually every Saturday and Sunday morning, starting at 6:30 a.m., he is present in the kitchen, mixing batter, shaping and sugaring the finished product and scrubbing pots and pans.
"All of our kids help out," says dad, noting 9-year-old big sister Sydney buses tables in the summer while 3-year-old little sis Victoria offers energetic verbal support.
|The family that bakes together gets to eat cakes together or better yet homemade donuts if they're the Shusters. Gathering at their new doughnut machine, which has proven to be a success with their many customers, are (front left to right) Augustus, Victoria and Sydney, along with (standing) Natasha and Drew, mom and pop owners of the popular Catskill Mountain Country Store in Windham.
Photo credit: Michael Ryan/Windham Journal
Augustus, in addition to being a Trump-like tyke, is a fine student, as is sister Sydney, and it hasn't taken long for him to absorb the subtleties of sales.
"The reason why I asked for a donut machine was because there were no other homemade donuts in Windham," Augustus says, when asked about his inspiration.
"I like the donut business because the donuts smell good and sweet. The donut business is a hit and I am looking forward to making experimental donuts in the future."
"The donut business is very fun. I am a sales person and a delivery boy. I am going to run the donut business someday and I would like to have a donut business in every town."
It's not far-fetched. "When he got his first dividend check, I explained to him that being in business wasn't all about profit," dad says. "The cost of production and other expenses all have to be figured in."
"He went to school the very next week and gave his teacher a dissertation on the subject. He actually comes up with marketing ideas and is always eager to learn."
The bottom line, says dad, is an acceptance of old-fashioned values, a quality shared by Augustus and sister Sydney (who hopes to be President or a scientist someday).
"We have a toy section in the store and one problem with kids is that anytime they see something new they want it," Drew Shuster says, smiling.
"Around here, they know they have to work for it. It's an ongoing battle, but it's the only way to go. You have to be firm." And, if a certain someone is involved, ready to negotiate.