It all began with a tricycle.
In May 2011, Lindsay Moriarty, co-owner of Monuts Donuts in Durham, graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a dual master’s degree in public health and city planning.
“I had a hard time finding a job,” she said. “I wasn’t ready to admit that I was unemployable at that point. I kept telling myself that my dream job will come, and that I’m going to do something in the meantime to pay the bills.”
During graduate school, Moriarty and her friends would joke about what they would do if they didn’t end up finding jobs in their particular field of study.
“We had developed an elaborate plan for a donut shop in Durham,” Moriarty said. “At that point, there hadn’t been one.”
After her graduation, Moriarty took a trip one weekend. She came back to find a contraption screwed onto the back of her tricycle — constructed by husband and co-owner Rob Gillespie — in which she could store donuts to ride around and sell.
“It was kind of a death trap,” Moriarty said of the new addition to her bike. “It was very poorly constructed. If you reached inside, it had all of these screws that were screwed in from the inside, so you’d always get all these scratches up your arms.”
All potential danger aside, Moriarty suddenly had a vehicle for selling donuts.
The couple began selling their donuts — made in kitchens they would rent by the hour — at the farmer’s market every Saturday.
“It became very popular,” Moriarty said. “Very popular, very fast.”
During the farmer’s market days, Moriarty ended up accepting a job and decided to close Monuts.
“After a month at my new job, I was like, ‘Man, I hate this,’” she said. “I gave them two months notice, and, after three months, I quit.”
In January 2012, the couple decided it was time to take Monuts seriously.
“We knew the tricycle couldn’t be a long-term thing,” Moriarty said. “We knew we’d have to expand.”
Monuts Donuts officially opened on Parrish Street in downtown Durham in spring 2013. Gillespie dropped out of Duke, where he was working toward his doctorate, and came to the restaurant to work full-time.
A new location on Ninth Street opened in December 2014, and while the downtown location is currently closed, it is set to reopen soon.
“We see a lot of customers, and they’re all good people,” Gillespie said. “We never really took it seriously when we first started, but when we opened on Parrish Street, it became serious when we realized we needed more than three people running the place.”
The owners provide living wages and have been advocates for restaurants treating employees better. This, Moriarty said, has brought her job full-circle.
“My interest in school was economic development and job quality, so when I decided to do Monuts, there was always part of me worried that I was not doing what I was interested in,” she said. “But we’ve been able to make Monuts what I want it to be. I wouldn’t have been able to say I created 50 jobs if I had become a researcher.”
Moriarty said she took the scenic route, but it paid off.
“I’ve ended up in a good place,” she said. “I’m super proud of what we’ve done, and I’m blown away by how quickly we’ve gotten to this point.”