Business During COVID-19:
Bearscat Bakehouse

Aug 14, 2020

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What is Bearscat Bakehouse?

Kevin & Tina Cavanagh are the proud owners and operators of Bearscat Bakehouse - a donut shop headquartered in Bismarck, ND. The husband and wife duo purchased “The Donut Hole” in 2006 and later rebranded it to “Bearscat Bakehouse” in 2011 – naming it after an old cowboy term for donuts. They are one of the few donut shops in the state of North Dakota that make their own donuts daily, ensuring the highest quality and freshness. Known for their creativity and fun, Bearscat offers unique toppings, fillings, names, and flavors of donuts that make them unlike any other donut in the state. Today, they have locations in Bismarck, Mandan, Minot, the Minot Air Force Base, and Salem, Oregon.

“When we first talked about purchasing The Donut Hole, I told my wife, ‘If I’m going to do something, I want to do something that people are happy about.’ And quite frankly, if you’re cranky when you’re buying a donut, you have issues. We try to have a good time with our employees, we have a silly name, and we enjoy our industry, experience, customers, and everything in between….and that’s why we started this business journey in the first place.”

COVID-19 Challenges:

While the COVID-19 can bring many different challenges to small businesses, Kevin summarized the biggest challenge for his business and his customers in one word: confusion.     

As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Bearscat’s sales dropped dramatically. This was partly due to the lack of meetings and other social events that donuts usually accompany. However, another big proponent of their sales decline was simply because many people do not know what they could and could not do.

“There are so many different sources of information coming at everyone from different directions. People are confused. What do I do? Is it okay to buy a donut? Can I go in there? The fear of the unknown really plays a large part in situations like this.”

Kevin and his wife also experienced this confusion from a management perspective as they sought to understand how their business can operate during this time. From the CDC and the Governor, to government financing programs and local health departments from the various cities that Bearscat operates in, the Cavanagh’s struggled to sort through the information and figure out what was required of them in order to move forward.

Bearscat’s Creative Solutions:

Along with ensuring cleanliness at their bakeries, Bearscat has focused on trying to remain as close to “normal” as possible. While they do not currently allow “dine-in” customers, Bearscat currently operates as a pick-up business and continues to offer fresh, innovative, and delicious donuts to their customers.

Community Support:

Bearscat has received phenomenal support from the community throughout this unprecedented time. Not only have some of their customers began encouraging their friends and family to support their business over social media, but a group of community members have started something called “Ding-Dong-Donut Ditch,” where customers leave a dozen donuts at their neighbors house anonymously and cause a chain reaction.

“Like many small businesses throughout the Bismarck/Mandan area, we have received amazing support from our community that I’m so grateful for. Whether it’s reminding others that we are open and still making donuts or spreading some happiness with Ding-Dong-Donut Ditch, it’s been so cool to see the community work together and support local businesses.”

Advice for Other Small Business Owners:

Kevin encouraged other small business owners to do one thing to help them through future challenges: build a network. He is part of a network of like-minded business owners throughout the community who have supported him, offered advice, and helped update him on different regulations and recommendations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s made the world of a difference.

“I have a few buddies who own various restaurants and businesses in town that call and email me often. They send me updates that they hear so they don’t slip through the cracks, encourage me, and share their creative ideas as well. It has been a crazy year, so having other people that know where I am at and what is out there to help has been a huge resource for me.”

For more information on Bearscat Bakery, visit their website.