In this special interview episode, I talk with Kathryn Rawlinson from Travel Butler County. This county is located north of Cincinnati and is known for the Butler County Donut Trail. Learn all about this fun adventure supporting local businesses while tasting some of the best donuts Ohio has to offer. In the end you will come away with a sugar rush, a tour of a beautiful county, and a free t-shirt if you can complete your passport.
On our podcast, Eat Shop Waste Not, I conducted an interview with Kathryn Rawlinson from Travel Butler County.
You can listen to this podcast episode below or listen on any of these podcast players - Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts. If you would prefer to read the text, you will find a transcript below.
Here is the transcript from our interview with Kathryn from Travel Butler County.
Eric: Hey everybody. Welcome to the Eat Shop Waste Not Podcast. Um, we're here today with a special interview episode here and this one is probably the sweetest one we have ever done. Um, today we are talking about the donut trail. Are you like, whoa, what's a donut trail? That sounds intriguing.
Um, so I'm here today with, Kathryn from Travel Butler County, which is in Ohio, and she is gonna tell us all about, what the Butler County Donut Trail is. So, uh, Catherine, welcome to the podcast.
Kathryn: Hey, thank you so much for having me.
🥾 What is the Donut Trail?
Kathryn: So Butler County, for those who don't know, is located directly between Cincinnati and Dayton in southwest Ohio. Um, and we are home to the famous Donut Trail. Uh, the donut trail is 13 mom and pop donut shops. So they're all like locally owned, incredible donut shops. And the trail itself is about 80 miles. Um, so it's like the perfect sweet road trip adventure.
Eric: And it's a beautiful area too. Like, I know, being up in Michigan, of course here we have our kind of negative biases towards Ohio with the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. Um, but you're going south down 75, maybe you're going down to Florida for Disney World.
And you've seen just a bunch of flat farmland for a while, but then once you kind of get past that there, it starts getting a little more hilly and a little more prettier. So it's, it's kind of a fun drive, um, to do around the county. There's some pretty parks to stop at too. So, you know, if you wanna get some exercise after eating all those donuts, I think it's, it's a really pretty area.
Kathryn: Well, thank you. Yeah, no, it's, it's a great place to explore. We have so many different communities. Um, they're all very vibrant communities and they all have something different to offer. So The Donut Trail is kind of the perfect way to explore the area and see, you know, the other attractions and adventures in local businesses, um, that are in Butler County as well.
We find that since the donut trail really is like an early morning adventure, that by the afternoon people are ready for protein, something that is not sugar. Um, so usually they go and try out another one of our, like, local businesses for lunch. Um, and then there's plenty of time to then go for a hike or go shopping and explore.
So it, it's perfect that The Donut Trail really kind of wraps up in the morning and gives you a time for additional adventures and activities along the way.
Eric: Exactly there is, there's definitely fun to do in that area. And then even down in Cincinnati and surrounding there's Kings Islands, not that far away. Probably shouldn't do a rollercoaster after eating a bunch of donuts in the morning though. But recommend that. Um, but yeah, there are lots of fun things.
🛬 How to Get Your Passport
So the trails about, you know, visiting different shops. I've done it twice here, but for those who haven't heard, tell us about the passport that you get at each donut shop.
Kathryn: Yeah, absolutely. So the Donut Trail Passport, you can download one off of our website, which is bcdonuttrail.com. Or you can collect one in any of the shops. They should have them on the counters waiting for you. But you take your passport around to each stop and then you, get stamped along the way.
So every single shop has their own custom donut trail word. Um, so it builds out like a fun little story and adventure on the passport as well. Um, and then as soon as your passport is complete, you can turn it in to us to get a donut trail, exclusive T-shirt and you have to have a passport complete to, uh, to get the shirts.
That is the only way to get one.
Eric: Yeah. Me and my family were able to be able to accomplish that. It's a, it's a lot of, it's a lot of donuts, it's a lot of, um, it is a lot of driving around, but you said, you know, 80 miles the total here and you can plan on your route. I majored in geography in college and so I'm a huge map person here.
So I went and, and made the most strategic mapping. So I was Trying to map it around so I would not waste as much time driving when I, you know, need to go in the right order and pick the shops at the end because they come to the, um, to your Travel Butler County, visitor Center or Commerce Center.
Kathryn: Yeah. Welcome center. Yeah.
Um, to get their shirts. I plan my last shop to be the one closest to that place, so you can just pop over there,get your t-shirt. We even had our My, my oldest daughter has a service dog and we had an extra passport for her and she got T-shirt too. So,
Kathryn: Yeah, we, we posted the photos, I believe, of your family on, on social media with your service dog, so yeah, no any, any puper that completes, you know, their own passport as welcome to a T-shirt as well.
📜 How Did It Start?
Eric: So what made you guys decide to do something like this? Where did this kind of, kind of start from?
Kathryn: Yeah, so the donut Trail launched actually back in 2016. Our marketing team, we were brainstorming to some unique ways to promote Butler County. and quickly in that brainstorming session, we realized that we had a lot of donut shops. So that kind of lended itself into doing a bit more research on exactly how many donut shops we had, and we discovered that we actually had, the largest amount of donut shops per capita in the Midwest.
And so it felt like a natural fit at that point. Another, you know, fun and unique way to promote Butler County. Um, as I said, we launched the trail back in January of 2016, so it, it's going strong and still, we have people travel, um, from all over the country and all over the world to experience the donut trail in Butler County.
Uh, at this point, we've had people from all 50 states as well as 22 different countries come in. So it, it's been a lot of fun and we've got to meet a lot of, uh, you know, cool people and hear a lot of great stories, uh, you know, of the donut trail adventures.
🛒 The Largest Grocery Store
Eric: And that, that is amazing that, you know, it's now become, a thing like that. Um, so my family, we've done it twice. Um, and we also, cause I'm a big foodie person also nearby is the biggest grocery store in the, I think it's in the world. So Jungle Jim's, um, this really amazing grocery store. We talked about it at my best grocery store episode back in December. And so that's another, draw for me as a, as a food person, is do the donut trail and I get to go to visit this humongous store that will probably help you burn some calories.
It's like probably multiple Costcos in size. It's, it's huge.
Kathryn: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Jungle Jim's um, is about six and a half acres of foodie fun. They have an acre and a half of produce alone, uh, so you can go in there and try thousands of hot sauces, um, you know, chips and candies from around the world, beverages from around the world. So it's, it's somewhere that you can easily spend three hours wandering around with a cart.
Eric: We got four.
Kathryn: Yeah, exactly. That you've, you've likely never seen before. Or it's also fun in a way that if you, um, have traveled somewhere and really enjoyed a specific item, that you're likely to find it there.
Eric: Yeah, it, absolutely amazing place. You know, like some grocery stores will have one international aisle and they have like, you know, there's four aisles just for England by itself, you know, and so three aisles just to find, you know, find those little fun items that maybe you saw from overseas traveling or just wanting to try different things here. So yeah, we, we love another great place to go, um, while you're there for sure.
Kathryn: For sure. Yeah. It's a, it's a foodie wonderland. You know, it's kind of funny for me personally, as I grew up in this region and I didn't realize that that was such a specialty, unique thing. My parents, my parents were British, and so we would just roll down to Jungle Gyms to get all the things that they loved and remembered, you know, from living in England.
And then obviously I, you know, gained favorites as well. And so we would just roll down to jungle gyms like it was nothing, you know, and you, you don't realize, uh, As an outsider, um, an outside perspective that that is just not something most people get to have down the street from their home. So yeah, it's, it's a really cool attraction to have here.
📖 Stories from the Trail
Eric: Yeah. Um, so what are some of, what are some of the things you've heard, um, from other people who have done the trail before? What are some like feedback you guys have gotten?
Kathryn: Well we hear the donut trails used for a lot of different celebrations, so we get to hear a lot of fun stories from that. So we've had, uh, we've had engagement photo shoots on the donut trail, which has lended itself, just some very cute photos. We've had lots of birthdays. We actually have a specialty birthday passport that you can print on our website for the person whose birthday you're celebrating along the trail.
We've had a couple that's done it. They did it for their honeymoon and they return every single year for their, their anniversary, and they fly in from Texas. To be able to do this each year, um, and everything down to, we've also had a family, um, that did it as like a gathering before a loved one deployed.
Uh, so the donut trail's been part of a lot of different people's, um, experiences and stories and lives. So it, it's always nice when people come in and share those stories with us.
Eric: it is so fun. Um, do you have a count for how many shirts you've given away since it started?
Kathryn: Over 35,000 at this point.
Eric: Oh wow. That is lot, lot
Kathryn: So a few shirts.
Eric: Yeah. And you guys change every year? There's a different one for every year with a different, different color scheme
Kathryn: Yeah. Every single year we change the color and we change to the design. So it's a, it's a process and it's a fun process trying to sort out what next year's shirt will be. So if you have any ideas, let us know.
Eric: Yeah. So things you can go back to do again. Um, because also too, like when you're, um, like we did along the trail, I mean, you're not gonna eat every donut from every shop here. Um, our strategy ends up being like, you know, we have six people in our family. So we would, um, we would buy maybe two to three donuts or so per shop somewhere.
We, we just bought one just to go in there. We had, you know, I came well prepared. I mean, I had a cutting board and a knife. We even had baby wipes. I mean, you know the nerdy food person's gonna become all ready for this. Um, but yeah, that's what it came down to. I think we actually ate maybe two. Two, three hold donuts, um, ourselves could be did over a two day period.
So you can, you know, stretch that out here. And you don't have to do it all in one day if you're in the area. Um, you can do it over multiple, multiple days, um, if you want to. Just gotta get all those things too.
What's something you think that people, um, that you want people need to know that maybe they, um, miss out on or get confused about or on with the trail?
Kathryn: Yeah. So a couple of things I would say the donut trail's, definitely an early morning activity. Um, you wanna rise and shine with those donuts. The shops will often close once they've sold out for the day. Uh, so if it does, say, for example, like on their Facebook or their website that they close at noon, if they sell out of donuts at 10, they're gonna close.
So we definitely recommend, especially if you're doing it in one day, that you get an early start. Normally like 6, 6 30 in the morning. Um, if you're doing it, most people like to do it over two days just to split it up a little bit. Uh, you probably get started closer to like 7, 7 30, uh, but you still might run into, uh, some close signs later in the day.
Another thing I would definitely recommend, uh, for people to do is we have a donut trail concierge line that you can call and we'll help you plan the best donut trail route in a customized route to what day you're going to travel, how many days you are doing the trail across, where you're starting, where you might like to finish, uh, help you find other ventures and activities to do along the way.
So that phone number, if anybody would like to call and talk to our donut experts is 513-860-0917.
Eric: Let's see. Extreme, extremely useful. Um, yeah, that's great to have that. I went and, and made a Google Sheets of all those different shops here, so I could easily then click on the link and just, go like that, and it took me a while too. But again, I'm the super nerdy person who's gotta go, go do all the prep.
I definitely, if you're, if you're lost saying, I dunno where to go next here, um, you know, cause cause they're not gonna be in a straight line, you know, there's gonna be some here, some there, and you're gonna have to kind of like figure out what, you know, which way you wanna, um, hit those up. So if you guys, I think I noticed you have there been different shops, um, that have been in the trail over the years.
You kind of go back and forth between different places that may enter in, some may leave it over time.
Kathryn: Essentially the donut trail when it first launched, had nine shops. And at this point we have 13 shops, so it continues to expand over time.
Eric: Making it harder and harder, right? it's good. More and more donuts.
Kathryn: More delicious.
Eric: More delicious. Definitely. Yeah. More things. Um, but yeah and it's fun , finishing it, getting the shirt, you know, it's, it's a fun sets of accomplishment here. You know, it's good for the kids in just, you know, learning how to like, have a goal and set out to do a goal and, and then accomplish that goal.
Um, even if it's, you know, something fun like eating donuts, , I think it's really fun just for the, the kid just learning how to do something. Um,
Kathryn: Yeah, there's something inherently fun just going around with your passport and getting it stamped, you know? And it's a rollercoaster. Like you start off and you're like, well, I'm ready to go halfway through. You're like, oh man, I have had a lot of donuts. I don't know. And then you rally, and then there's this.
A sense of excitement and accomplishment at the end. So we get to see people here at our welcome center afterwards who've had lots of sugar and have lots of excitement, uh, which is always fun for us. And we have a giant sprinkled donut wall here with the logo on it. Uh, so that makes for a great, like finisher photo as well.
It's a good photo opportunity. And speaking of photo opportunities, people may not realize, but each shop has their, um, own Donut Trail sign that is hiking inspired. Uh, so that makes for fun little photo opportunity and something else to look for as you're traveling the trail.
Eric: Yep. Yeah, me and my family got a picture next to each one of those little, little, so they're just really fun. You know, in the Instagram, social media world here, it's a really opportunity to do a lot of different photos and it's helping all these small businesses too. Like all these, you know, I'm sure that's, it's helped them.
Um, Attracts more people to their shops. Um, and that's why, you know, some of these places sell out too because they, you know, they have a certain number of people, they have a certain number of power to be able to make the donuts here and then, and it, and it's a good thing though, if they get to go home early and make their money, that's, you know, that could be a good thing here, um, for them.
🍩 Favorite Donuts
So, uh, it's great. Uh, so before we go, we, we should probably at least talk about some of those donuts, um, on the trail. So do you have any personal favorites?
Kathryn: So I can't pick a favorite. I could pick a favorite probably from every shop. Um, and a lot of my favorites tend to be seasonals. Uh, just because they're like unique limited release offerings. Um, some of the fun ones that I've got to try over the years, uh, recently at Holtmans, they had a blueberry donut, um, that had this like, uh, elderberry frosting on top and that was delightfully refreshing for like a spring summer donut.
That was, that was really good. Uh, in the fall, I obviously, I really love pumpkin flavored donuts. Those are always just a fun fall staple. Um, anytime you can find like a lemon blueberry. Uh, but there's a lot of fun donut trail donuts, like you could find like maple bacon, key lime.
Just last week, one of the shops likes to get adventurous. Um, on Fridays they do fritter Fridays and they had a pickle fritter for our pickle fans out there. They've also done jalapeno cheddar fris in the past as well. So there's, there's sweet and they're savory and the, you know, the shops definitely get creative and you, you'll, you never know what you're gonna find on any given day on the trail.
There's, there's a lot of good ones.
Eric: definitely. Yeah. Yeah. We looked up too, a couple different websites here and they, and they all had so many different things to say. And it's something else to note too, like these donut shops, if you look at the Google reviews, they're all pretty good.
They all have probably at least 4.5 stars or more on Google. So , these are good places too. Like everyone had, you know, something that, that was good and tasty here. Um, and, and we tried to balance them with trying to not do, to do like, you know, have, having some more of the decadent ones, but then also, you know, doing your simple cinnamon twists or, um, Central Pastry shop had a really good cinnamon square that was classic and really, and, and, and really, really good.
So we kind of balance between the, you know, those two and, and of course we got a maple bacon cuz you got it cuz we love that combo.
Kathryn: Yeah, you can't go wrong. They, um, all the shops have a specialty. Um, and you know, if you just go in every, I always encourage people to ask the staff like, which one should I try? It's my first time I'm on the trail. They'll let you know, they'll let you know what's, you know, Limited release what they're known for.
Uh, you'll, you'll run into a lot of fun and friendly staff along the donut trail that are more than, you know, they're very accommodating and they, they love to greet people
Eric: They do. Yeah. Yeah. It was very, very hospitable. Like everyone was really friendly and wanting to greet, greet us, some volunteer to help take your picture for you here. So there was a lot of just really, really good, friendly people here. So, yeah, it's just a really fun time.
So. Well, Kathryn, thank you so much for coming on and sharing, um, about this here. Um, so again, for people who wanna find you what's your website again and where to find you on social media?
Kathryn: Yeah. So for more information, you can find us on bcdonuttrail.com, uh, on Instagram as well as TikTok. It's BC donut Trail is the handle or just donut Trail on Facebook.
Eric: Thank you so much. Um, it was a pleasure having you
Kathryn: Yeah. Thank you so much for having us.