Letters

Letters 09-15-2014

Stop The Games On Campus

Four head coaches – two at U of M and two at MSU – get a total of $13 million of your taxpayer dollars each year. Their staffs get another $11 million...

The Truth About Fatbikes

While we appreciate the fatbike trail coverage, the quote from the article below is exactly what we demonstrated not to be true in most cases last season...

Man Has Environmental Responsibility

I tend to agree with Thomas Kachadurian (“Playing God,” Sept. 8) that we should not interfere with the power of nature by deciding what is “native” and what is not. Man usually does what is better for man (or so we believe), hence the survival and population growth of our species...

The Bush & Obama Facts

Don Turner’s letter to the editor on 8/25/14 stated that there has never been a more corrupt, dishonest, etc. set of politicians in the White House. He states no facts, but here are a few...

Ban Pesticides

I grew up downstate in a neighborhood without pesticides. I was always very healthy. Living here, I have become ill. So I did my research and found out a lot about these poison agents called pesticides (herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, chemical fertilizers, etc) that are being spread throughout this community, accumulating in our air, water and soil...

Respect for Presidents?

Recently we read the Letter to the Editor that encouraged us to stop characterizing President Obama as anything other than an upstanding, moral, inspiring “first Black President”. The author would have us think that the rancor in the press, media and public is misguided. And, believe it or not, this rancor is a “glaring exception to … unwritten patriotic rule” of historically supporting all previous presidents...


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.

ARTISANAL DOUGHNUTS

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.”

DOUGHNUT INSPIRATION

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.

BETTER THAN A PHONE BOOK

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.”

APP IS AUTOMATED

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.

ANYTHING FROM ANYWHERE

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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