A business grows in Brooklyn; one that partly sprouted from Winslow High School.

Dan Dunbar, class of 2002, is co-owner of Dun-Well Doughnuts in New York City. The shop — which combines a love of cooking, art and theatrics — was recently crowned by the New York Daily News as having the best doughnuts in the city.

But there’s a twist: New York City’s best doughnuts are also vegan.

“We serve the only vegan doughnut in New York City,” said Dunbar, 28. “Our doughnuts have no cholesterol. We use all-natural ingredients that are organic and local whenever possible.

“We don’t peddle our doughnuts as health food, but we are proud that we serve the healthiest doughnuts.”

From their headquarters in the fashion-forward neighborhood of East Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Dun-Well Doughnuts sells about 100 different varieties of doughnuts, including root beer, tangerine with basil, a jelly doughnut with peanut butter icing called the PB&J and more.

Doughnuts, however, were never part of the plan while Dunbar was growing up in Winslow. But his profession is a culmination of his youthful interests.

As a teenager, Dunbar wanted to be a restaurateur or an actor. During his junior year in high school, Dunbar played the lead role in a production of “The Crucible.” He later went to Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y., to pursue acting.

During his first year in college, Dunbar, who was overweight at the time, switched to a vegan diet, which excludes all animal products, after learning more about the living conditions of animals on large-scale industrial farms.

He said that when a lot of people were experiencing the “freshman 15,” he lost 80 pounds the year he went vegan.

After Ithaca, Dunbar enrolled in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to pursue a bachelor’s of fine art in sculpture.

Those passions — cooking, theater, sculpture and a vegan lifestyle — are all found within the walls of Dun-Well Doughnuts, Dunbar said.

Theater is evident in the store’s decor and its owners’ personas, he said. Dunbar and business partner Christopher Hallowell, who he met at Ithaca College, play the roles of “old-timey gentlemen,” and the shop’s atmosphere evokes the post-World War I era.

Those style choices were dictated by the history of the doughnut — a history that the business partners discovered while researching recipes, Dunbar said.

“The doughnut got a lot of attention in the early 1920s when the Salvation Army sent some people over to France to try to boost morale for the troops,” he said. “They were limited with ingredients, and they wanted to make something that would be enjoyed whether it was served hot or cold, so they decided to start making doughnuts there.

“The doughnut became a symbol of pride in the country and a symbol of doing service.”

Dunbar is the shop’s head baker — an overnight shift that sometimes runs from 10:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. The doughnuts themselves are like works of art, albeit at a faster pace of creation, he said.

“I’m used to spending weeks at a time to develop a single (sculpture), and right now I’m making a couple thousand doughnuts a week, so I don’t get to spend as much time with each doughnut as I’d like, but a lot of thought goes into how the finished doughnut will look.”

Artfulness might be readily apparent in each doughnut, but there’s one aspect of the product that the shopowners hope is undetectable. They hope no one would ever guess their doughnuts are vegan.

“We don’t plaster the words vegan or vegetarian in our shop. We promote it more on our website, but that’s because people are doing web-based searches for ‘vegan’ and ‘doughnut’ and we want to let those people know about us,” he said. “But in the shop, we don’t want to start people off with a bias. We want the doughnuts to speak for themselves.”

He said it’s not difficult to make a doughnut that tastes good without eggs or dairy products.

“Eggs serve a function in baked goods that can be replicated with non-animal ingredients,” he said. “I don’t think people bite into a doughnut and say, ‘Oh, this is so eggy.’

“So, it was just a matter of finding what worked best. In the long run, we found things that actually work better.”

The New York Daily News seems to agree. In February, just three months after Dun-Well opened its doors, the newspaper included their doughnuts in their “Best of New York” feature.

The recognition has boosted sales, too. They sell about 50 dozen doughnuts a day at the shop, plus more at eight other locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The doughnuts range from $1.50 to $2.50 apiece, or $25 per dozen.

Paul Dunbar, a Winslow dentist, said he’s proud of his son Dan for following his own path and pursuing his interests.

“I’m happy he’s doing what he wants in this world,” said Dunbar, 55. “You only live once.”

Ben McCanna — 861-9239

[email protected]

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