When Republican Tag Greason and Democrat Rob Krupicka served together in the General Assembly, their political ideology could not have been further apart. Krupicka represented left-leaning Alexandria, and Greason represented the moderate but historically right-leaning Ashburn.
But they often found they could agree on issues like transportation and education, spearheading bills that reformed standardized tests and early childhood education. Now with their political careers behind them, and just as politics seem more divided than ever, they’ve found something else to unite them.
Something a bit sweeter.
“If there is a bring-people-together food, it’s doughnuts,” Greason said.
The two former legislators are teaming up to launch four doughnut shops—named Sugar Shack Donuts & Coffee—throughout Northern Virginia and DC, with plans to eventually expand further.
“We were kind of the odd couple of the General Assembly,” Krupicka said. “But neither of us cared about who got credit for what, so we were a pretty effective team. We’re taking that idea and applying it to something totally different.”
The original Sugar Shack opened in Richmond in 2013, and there are now 12 other locations throughout Virginia and Washington, DC. Krupicka brought the chain to Northern Virginia in 2015, first opening one in Alexandria, then Arlington and Washington, DC. Last year, he approached Greason about joining him in the venture as an investor, and now the two will open up another Sugar Shack in Lansdowne.
The Lansdowne Sugar Shack, at 19332 Town Green Drive, is slated to open within the next month.
Greason and Krupicka first sunk their teeth into a Sugar Shack doughnut when working as delegates in Richmond. They said boxes of the sweet pastries handmade in a little corner shop would often show up in the Capitol during session.
“I told the owner [Ian Kelley] you should open a shop in Northern Virginia, and he told me you should open a shop in Northern Virginia,” Krupicka said with a laugh.
As he was considering the idea, he observed a typical morning at the original Sugar Shack. He immediately noticed a different atmosphere from that of his political work: everyone—from the owner to the employees to the customers—was happy.
“In politics, you’re lucky if you make 50 percent of your constituents happy,” he said. “How would you not want to be a part of a business that made everybody happy?”
A handful of beloved doughnut shops have opened in and near Loudoun during the past couple of years—including B. Doughnut in downtown Leesburg, Fractured Prune in the Village at Leesburg, and Duck Donuts in Herndon. But Greason said he has no doubt Sugar Shack can stand with the best of them.
“What makes these doughnuts unique is each one is handmade from scratch throughout the day,” he said. “And these are the most extravagant doughnuts you’ve ever seen.”
Their rotating flavors include sea salt caramel, Samoa, apple cake, fresh peach ginger, cucumber melon, honey lavender and maple bacon—Greason’s favorite—in addition to the more standard glazed, cinnamon sugar, and vanilla and chocolate sprinkles.
Sugar Shack is known for its yeast doughnuts—that Krupicka says are like eating a cloud—but their cake doughnuts and fritters are gaining popularity. The base yeast doughnut is vegan, and toppings vary from vegan to non-vegan. The toppings and glazes are also made in-house from all-natural ingredients. They have about a dozen flavors that are always available, and then they encourage their staff to create new flavors.
“The employees have fun being creative to create new flavors,” Greason said.
Aside from the variety and quality, Greason said Sugar Shack’s location in Lansdowne also lends itself to success. The town center’s Panera Bread and Starbucks are packed with customers each morning, so the customer base is there. Plus, it is walking distance from Belmont Ridge Middle School, Riverside High School and most Lansdowne residents. “We want it to be a community gathering place,” he said.
Each of the Sugar Shacks offers a special bent to cater to their customers. The Arlington shop serves beer; a restaurant and speakeasy called Captain Gregory’s is hidden inside the Alexandria shop; the DC location operates a high-end cocktail bar, and the Lansdowne shop will include a smoothie bar.
“We keep the main focus on doughnuts, but we also offer a little something extra to mirror the community it’s serving,” said Greason, who lives about five minutes from the Lansdowne shop. “I know the families in this area, and a lot of them will come in to get doughnuts for their kids but will want something healthier for themselves. So we thought, how about serving fresh smoothies.”
And each of the Sugar Shacks has a full coffee bar serving hand-pulled espresso, with beans from DC roaster Zeke’s and the Richmond Sugar Shack. “Our coffee game is strong,” Krupicka added.
While running the DC region Sugar Shacks is now Krupicka’s full-time job, Greason is keeping his day job as an executive vice president of sales for a technology company called QTS Inc. “This seemed like a great opportunity to do something fun. Doughnuts are fun and make people happy. The world could use more happiness.”