In this installment of Meet the Merchant, we speak to Dae-Kun Kim of Fray’s Donut House in St. Petersburg, Florida. Kim shares how he ventured away from mechanical engineering and found success and happiness as a donut shop owner.
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Clover: Tell us the story of how you came to run this beautiful donut shop.
Dae-Kun Kim: When I finished college, I decided I wanted to do my own business instead of work for somebody. I studied mechanical engineering in college and had an automotive repair shop for a while, but it wasn’t really successful. I moved to Dallas, Texas, and one of my friends had a donut shop, so I learned the donut–how to make one and run the business. I bought a little donut shop and ran it for about five years. I decided to move back to St. Petersburg and bought an existing donut shop–Fray’s Donut House. That was almost 20 years ago. I ran it almost fifteen years before I bought another donut shop–run down in pretty bad shape. I fixed it and cleaned it, and after a couple of years it started booming, too. It was a bit much for me, so I sold the original shop, and I’m still running the second one today.
Clover: Although you ran a donut shop in Dallas, you were able to build a really successful business in St. Petersburg. What do you think made the difference?
Kim: Dallas has so many donut shops, but I didn’t see many in St. Petersburg when I lived here previously. So I saw an opportunity in St. Petersburg.
Clover: When you opened up in St. Petersburg, you were in a shop that was already a donut shop before you bought it. Did you have to work to find customers?
Kim: I ran the donut shop a little differently than the previous owner. I had a wholesale, too, selling the donuts to convenience stores and gas stations, which helped spread the word.
Clover: Are there more donut shops around you now? Or are you still one of the only ones in St. Petersburg?
Kim: There are only a handful here, plus two others with the same name. They were built and sold by the previous owner to a different individual. We’re not associates, but we share the same shop name, Fray’s Donut House.
Clover: What makes your donuts stand out? Is there something special that you do with your donuts–either their flavors or kinds of preparation that make yours special?
Kim: All the donuts are made by hand. I try to make traditional donuts–like old style–and I think people recognize that these donuts are the kinds they used to eat when they were kids.
Clover: Tell me about how you discovered Clover.
Kim: A sales lady who was helping me identify a new POS told me a new system would come out in a few months and to wait. That system I was waiting on was Clover. As soon as it was on the market, she brought it to me, and we started using it. So I was among the first customers with Clover.
Clover: What did you like about Clover?
Kim: Everything. It’s an excellent system.
Clover: Have you updated your systems since then, or are you still with the original one?
Kim: I’ve updated it three times because I love it. I don’t own them–I just lease them for three years, and every three years I update.
Clover: How do you use the Clover? Which products do you have?
Kim: I have everything. I have a Station at the register, a Mini for the customer, and the Flex because my drive-through doesn’t have an intercom system. My employees with mobile phones can go out and take orders from customers waiting in the line. When the customer comes to the window, they just grab and go. That is working really well.
Clover: Do you use any of the apps for loyalty, human resources, taxes, or anything else?
Kim: Yeah, we use the reward program and also the kitchen display app, which has helped in my business a lot. We also use the online ordering app. I was struggling to set up online ordering through my website. One day Clover calls me and says, “DK, why don’t you use the online ordering that Clover has?” She explained how to use it and how to connect it. Wow! There was a big difference. People loved it. It’s so quick, and it works so much better. Now gross is up about 10 to 20 percent.
Clover: You have Clover online ordering–with a full coffee bar, muffins, and frappés. How is that working for you?
Kim: When we were using our website for online ordering, customers used to only order certain things. With Clover online ordering, people can see all the items and click what they want. Sometimes we get scared because so many long orders come in, but it’s helping a lot. Plus it leaves a good impression with the customer since we’re a smaller shop. It’s also been useful to print receipts for customers days after they visit. Customers come back a couple of days later and say, “DK, let me have my receipt.” We ask what time they were here, and click it. The receipt comes right out, we print it, and give it to them. They’re so impressed.
Clover: How has the pandemic changed your business? How have you had to adapt?
Kim: At first, business was hurting because they closed down inside dining. Luckily we have a drive-through, but that still limited our ability to serve. When customers found out that the drive-through was open, the line was backed out to the street. We’ve been handling it pretty well. We’re getting back to normal now.
Clover: What do you think is next for Fray’s? Do you plan to keep this location?
Kim: I just purchased the property a couple of years ago. It was in pretty bad shape, but we fixed it up. I’ll probably keep just one donut shop. I’m happy, and the customers like it. I’d like to keep it that way for a while.
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