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What makes Harmony Donut Shop the best in North Vancouver?

The store’s beloved doughnut recipe has remained mostly unchanged for 50 years

Harmony Donut Shop has a recipe for success – the same one that’s dropped into the deep fryer for more than 50 years.

Dan Heard remembers the small business at 2945 Lonsdale Ave. in North Vancouver opening in the early ’70s, when it was run by its former owner, a man named Walter, he said.

When Heard lived nearby on East 27th a few years later, he used to go to Harmony in the morning before work. Then, after moving to Burnaby for 18 years, he’d still make the cross-town trip for doughnuts a couple times a month.

Now that he’s living back in North Vancouver, Heard visits the shop every week.

What keeps him coming back after all these years? “The people and the doughnuts. I mean, this is North Van from way back when,” he said. “And it’s better than Honey Doughnuts.”

Heard’s opinion fits in the same box as more than a third of local North Shore News readers, who voted in a recent poll that Harmony makes the best doughnuts in North Vancouver.

But another batch would say dollars to doughnuts that Honey is the higher-quality confection, with more than a quarter of readers voting for the rival Deep Cove store, which was famously favourited by Oscar-winner Kate Winslet.

Compared to its celebrity-status rival, Harmony is much less known to the outside world. The quirky Lonsdale shop – brimming with bygone paraphernalia – doesn’t have so much as a website. Yet, with such a dedicated local fan base, clearly it doesn’t need one.

On the contrary, after news broke of her shop winning the poll, owner Carol Haggerty said she was swamped by a rush of new customers.

“We were in a bind, because we only got one machine,” she said. This little, small donut shop all of a sudden became like, ‘Oof!’ … we had a lineup all day.”

Normally the store has a flow of first-time customers, but much of Haggerty’s clientele are regulars.

“We do get a lot of regulars on a first-name basis, because it’s kind of that kind of store. You get to know other people and they like it,” she said. “I make it a point to remember names, which I’m really good at.”

Haggerty has known some of her customers for more than three decades. But as personable as she is, people wouldn’t return to Harmony year after year if the doughnuts weren’t delightful.

Same beloved doughnuts crafted by different hands over the years

Why do so many consider them the best?

“I love cake doughnuts, No. 1,” says longtime regular Heard, revelling in all the flavour combinations on offer.

“They do coconut with white icing. Raspberry, orange, strawberry – whatever – chocolate, different coloured sprinkles. I mean, come on,” he said.

On this particular day, Heard is taking home a box of plain doughnuts, “because these are for my coffees in the morning.”

Another big part of the appeal is how little they’ve changed. “It’s basically the same as you did back in the day,” he remarks to Haggerty. “I’m sure the recipe is the same. It’s gotta be.”

The doughnut recipe has remained more or less consistent since Carol Haggerty’s husband John Haggerty bought the business in the early ’90s. Even less has changed since her husband died around nine years ago.

Before his death, John was the principal operator of the shop. He would handle the doughnuts while his wife would head the sandwich counter. “We made like three turkeys a week,” Haggerty said.

Eventually, the business became focused solely on the sweet stuff. After John’s sudden passing, his wife decided to continue making the doughnuts. “And I said, ‘No changes for a year. We won’t do any change, nothing rash,’” she recalled.

For nearly a decade since, her careful hands have cooked and decorated each confection, one by one.

Uniform, joyful and delicious, Harmony’s annular offerings line up in colourful rows along the shop’s windows, as they have for as long as any local doughnut lover cares to remember.

“I’m very picky,” Haggerty admits. “I am here six days a week because I don’t like anybody else to make them, because they don’t make it the way I make it.”

“You’re never ever going to get them all the same. But there’s certain things … they’ve got to be decorated properly,” she said. “I never came across any that I like as much as mine. I know it’s terrible, but it works, right?

“So I’m my own worst enemy, because now my kids won’t help because I pick on them,” Haggerty continued.

For a while it was a one-woman show, but now she has help from two trusted staff.

Still, Haggerty isn’t sure how long Harmony’s doughnut-making days will last.

“For how long? I don’t know. Till I’m sick of it,” she said. “You’re up early every day. I’m here at 5:30 in the morning.”

Getting up at the crack of dawn is the thing Haggerty says she likes least about running the shop. What does she like most?

“My favorite thing is meeting all the people. The majority of people when they come in, they’re happy that they’re getting something sweet,” she said. “They’re happy, and that makes me happy.”

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