By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — In a world where it seems you’re never more than a block away from a cruller, why would this city need yet another doughnut shop?
It’s simple, said John Akatyszewski of Ziggy & Sons’ Donuts; it’s all about the quality.
A half-century-old tradition in Salem, Ziggy’s recently opened its second shop on Lowell Street in Peabody. Of course, there are franchise doughnut shops barely a stone’s throw away, but Akatyszewski doesn’t see them as real competition.
For one thing, he believes that the chain shops have dropped the ball when it comes to their core product — doughnuts.
“I don’t think they’re selling a whole lot of doughnuts,” he said, pointing to menus emphasizing coffee, sandwiches and drinks. Ziggy’s offers coffee and drinks, as well, but the doughnuts, handmade each day, remain the backbone of the operation, from glistening glazed to generously creamed Boston cremes and plump, oozing jelly doughnuts.
“We pack ’em full,” said Akatyszewski, who takes few holidays because, “I don’t trust anybody to make the doughnuts the way I do.”
The shop offers up to 16 varieties made “from scratch,” with a recipe handed down from his late father, Zygmund, the source of the name Ziggy. The precious mix and ingredients, mainly bread flour, sugar, shortening and salt, aren’t written down anywhere.
“I keep them here,” Akatyszewski said, tapping his head.
But it’s not just the ingredients that make the doughnuts special.
“You’ve got to have gentle hands to mix the dough,” he explained. “And you can’t learn how to make doughnuts in a day.”
He cooks them in a vintage fryolator in Salem and carries them to Peabody each day. Akatyszewski knows when the doughnuts are right, because he loves eating them himself. And because they’re made right, he insists, they’re easy on your digestive system.
Akatyszewski even creates novelty doughnuts, including doughnuts that taste like doughnuts but, believe it or not, look remarkably like a cheeseburger or a hot dog in a roll covered with a swirl of mustard. He will also make miniature pastries for parties, muffins, whoopie pies, turnovers, apple dumplings and even pies of all description on order.
Word of mouth has helped Ziggy’s thrive in Salem since 1964, winning the business feature stories in local newspapers and on Boston television. Akatyszewski is hoping to see the same thing happen in Peabody.
“Dad always told me if you want people to come back, you’ve got to give them great doughnuts,” he said.
So far, he’s found Peabody customers welcoming.
“I’ve heard really good things about this place,” said Peabody High School student Sara Evangelista on a recent visit. She ordered a doughnut and said, “I’m on the field hockey team at the high school, and all the girls say these are good.”
Ziggy’s is a family operation. Akatyszewski works the Peabody store with wife, Pattie, while his mother and his sister remain at the shop in Salem. A niece helps out, too.
Unlike the franchise doughnut shops, Ziggy’s has no drive-thru. But the Akatyszewskis don’t believe that presents a problem. People will get out of their cars for “real” doughnuts, even in bad weather.
“Just bring an umbrella,” Pattie advised.
The store, in a strip mall across from the entrance to Peabody High, opened in August with Mayor Ted Bettencourt cutting the ribbon. They’re open weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays from 6:30 a.m. to noon. They’re closed on Saturdays.
Any new business is a risk, of course. Both Pattie and John Akatyszewski left second jobs to devote themselves to this, but neither seems worried.
“I have confidence in his doughnuts,” Pattie Akatyszewski said.