Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Want A Donut?
. . . .

Want A Donut?

There’s an App for That

Patrick Sullivan - May 5th, 2014  

A Petoskey native found a hole in the iPhone app market.

From his home on the shores of Burt Lake, Tim Tolbert sought to fill it with the launch of Doughbot in March.

In its first weeks the doughnut finder wound up featured on the first page of the iTunes Store’s list of recommended apps.

Doughbot does what it promises: It turns your iPhone or iPad into an automated doughnut locator, providing reviews, maps and directions to the nearest places to find the O-shaped sweets.


The app combined two of Tolbert’s loves: travel and doughnuts.

“One of my favorite things to do is travel when I have time, whether it’s a long weekend or whatever,” he said.

Lately he’s traveled a lot to Chicago and he’s noticed the burgeoning popularity of doughnuts.

“Doughnuts seem to be like cupcakes were a few years ago, even if they’ve been around for a hundred years,” Tolbert said.

He was inspired on a long weekend last July when he discovered a maker with a particularly delicious recipe that sold out every morning.

“They would sell out every morning by 11, and that’s it,” he said. “You’d have to come back the next day.”


The idea that you had to be on top of where good doughnuts are made inspired Tolbert.

He hired a graphic designer and a programmer, both based in Denmark, and he brought his vision to life.

Tolbert said he’s been “blown away” by the response.

Among the hundreds of thousands of apps that languish in iTunes App Store, his invention rose to the top. An Android version is slated to be released in about a month.

“I’ve been really pleased,” he said.

“They classed Doughbot one of the best new apps available in the App Store right now, which is really a huge honor.”

That first week Doughbot was top five among food and drink apps and top five among paid apps, he said.


Customers need something like Dough bot, said Clayton Brown, owner of Johan’s Pastry Shop of Petoskey and seven other locations around northern Michigan.

“All the kids that are in high school, the younger kids, they don’t use the phone book anymore. They’re on their iPhone,” Brown said. “They just do that app on their phone and that tells them where [the doughuts are].”

Brown said he’s glad to be on something like Doughbot, but he recognizes that it could also hurt him, because online reviews are not always fair. Someone might want to complain about, say, parking, and it could cost him business.

“Me, as a baker who’s been in business for 25 years, this stuff is changing,” Brown said. “In some instances, it can hurt us, too. You know, we try hard to please anybody, but it only takes one person to hurt us.”

Kathy Potter, of Potter’s Fine Pastries in Traverse City, hadn’t heard of Doughbot, but she was happy to hear the two Potter’s stores showed up on the app.

“We just had our 85th anniversary in February,” Potter said. “Actually, it’s our 86th, but they had to close for sugar rations in 1928.”


Some of Tolbert’s favorite nearby places for doughnuts are Johan’s, the Elk Rapids Sweet Shop and Barb’s Bakery in Northport.

Tolbert puts doughnut shops into three categories: mom and pop shops that have been around a hundred years, chains like Dunkin or Tim Horton’s that you can find everywhere and you know what you’re going to get, and boutique doughnut shops.

That last category is where you might find doughnuts with unusual ingredients.

“They’re foodies and they have a passion for doughnuts, you know, they’re bringing in new and interesting flavors,” he said.

“I’ve had a maple bacon doughnut with an actual piece of bacon on it, which was quite interesting.”

But don’t assume Tolbert’s favorites get any favors in Doughbot. The app is automated. It searches for doughnut shops based on Yahoo’s location database, reviews from Yelp! and photo galleries tagged in Instagram.


Tolbert became an app developer in a roundabout way.

A 1984 Petoskey grad, he attended college at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. before he headed off to Europe and elsewhere for 11 years.

He worked around the world in telecom and real estate until he returned to Michigan a few years ago to start a tech company with his brother. That company – Front Door Insights – worked with restaurants and solons and retail businesses to use text message marketing to keep customers engaged.

The company was purchased by a competitor, Mobivity, and Tolbert found himself with some time on his hands.

Tolbert doesn’t think it’s odd that he was able to score a tech hit from his rural Emmet County locale near Brutus. Nowadays you can do anything from anywhere, he said.

“That’s the cool thing about the App store and Amazon. If you’re a writer, you’ve got these distribution networks available,” he said. “You can do this anywhere, if you have a good idea.”

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