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Posted December 23, 2021 06:57 AM

Doughnut Homies set to expand beyond Worcester Public Market, open second location in Midtown Mall. Notifications pop up on Hayleigh Noel’s phone reminding her of memories with photos of the past. Instead of friends, family or even pets, though, doughnuts appear more often than not.

“I’ve always been fascinated by doughnuts,” Noel said. “It’s crazy. I see my memories from years back on my phone. For some reason, I always took pictures of doughnuts.”

For nearly two years, instead of taking photos of her favorite food, Noel has been making doughnuts and establishing a strong following in Worcester.

In September 2020, Doughnut Homies debuted in the Canal District at the Worcester Public Market. Now, Noel is preparing to open a second location downtown inside the Midtown Mall.

“I try to please everyone. I know you can’t but I’m a people pleaser,” Noel said. “I can’t work and do all that in such a small spot. I’m ready to expand.”

Noel currently rents time from a commercial kitchen to make doughnuts each day for her small space in Worcester Public Market. That alone can cause headaches.

“Trying to transport the doughnuts is the biggest thing,” Noel said. “I have a Nissan Altima and a lot of doughnuts.”

Her new space, which she expects to open by early spring of 2022, still has the bones of the diner that once sat inside the Midtown Mall.

Noel plans to keep the granite countertops, including the long bartop, to provide a new doughnut-buy experience.

As guests approach the main counter, they can create their own doughnut with any topping they desire. Think Subway-sandwich service but for doughnuts.

It will start with a plain doughnut then guests can pick the icing, the topping, or anything else they want on it.

“You can have it your way,” Noel said. “... We get so many requests for things and I really do try. I have a lot of ideas, but it’s just not me. We have the community every day telling me what I should make.”

Noel envisions a cafe where people sit at the counter for a morning doughnut or coffee and work for a few hours. Doughnut Homies downtown will also include breakfast sandwiches, a gourmet avocado toast menu, flatbreads and salads.

The bread for the sandwich will be based on her doughnut recipe, but instead of fried, they will be baked.

“I’m going to start off slow,” Noel said. “At my first location, I started with just the doughnuts. Then I added milkshakes, coffee and other little treats. I’ll definitely be adding as I go, but I don’t want to overwhelm myself. I’m only 23 years old. I’m not a wizard.”

By the time Doughnut Homies opens, Noel hopes to transform the space.

Doughnut-inspired light pink paint that should attract patrons from Mechanic Street will replace the dreary gray paint on the walls. White paint will cover the wood paneling under the counter and on the bottom half of the walls.

As an homage to the support Worcester provided Noel, a mural will welcome each person who walks into the second location.

“It was because of the community,” Noel said. “I couldn’t have done it without the community’s support.”

With just a few days left, the Salvation Army has been busy distributing toys to families in need so they can be wrapped and put under families’ trees in time for Christmas morning.

“Everyone has been so appreciative and excited because they know their children will have something to open on Christmas,” said Iris Andujar, a Toy for Joy volunteer with the Salvation Army in Holyoke.

Salvation Army units in Greenfield, Holyoke and Springfield have been getting packages of books and toys ready for thousands of children whose families registered for the annual Toy for Joy campaign.

All the while, donors have been sharing generous contributions to help ensure the costs of this year’s gifts are covered.

Today’s list of contributions is led with a $5,000 gift from the inmates’ commissary fund at the Hampden County Correctional Center and a $2,500 donation from the Sarat Ford Lincoln dealership in Agawam. The goal is to raise $150,000 by Christmas Eve; just over $28,000 is still needed to reach the goal.

Toy for Joy is in its 99th year of providing toys and books for children in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties who would otherwise be denied the joys of Christmas for reasons beyond their control. The campaign is a collaborative effort by the Salvation Army with The Republican, El Pueblo Latino and MassLive, along with media partners at Reminders Publishing and The Westfield News.

Pride Stores and Hampden County Sheriff Nicholas J. Cocchi are among the community partners supporting this year’s effort. This marks Cocchi’s third year assisting the holiday drive, while Pride Stores has been rallying its customers to support the effort for many years.

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