Jeff Carr exhibits an impressive mastery of his culinary domain, which just happens to be the inside of a cramped carnival-style concession trailer parked at the corner of State Route 585 and Portage Road in Wooster. For several hours each day, he turns out hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of Lerch’s famous donuts.
Lerch’s Donuts, a family business going back 83 years, doesn’t have a permanent storefront, but that doesn’t stop people from seeking their famous little golden-fried doughnuts, in a parking lot in a remote corner of town.
Carr, a retired Smithville school teacher, silently and intently moves his lips as he keeps count of his little golden charges. “Growing up, I remember getting them at the Wayne County Fair. There are only a few places where you can get them in a year’s time,” Carr reminisces as he hand-cranks the donut dropper that oozes buttermilk cake batter rings into 375° oil, where they cook for 90 seconds per side. The donuts are removed and cooled slightly before they’re tossed into a huge stainless steel bowl of sugar or cinnamon.
Lerch’s makes three varieties year-round—plain, sugar, and cinnamon—but offers a much-anticipated blueberry donut throughout the summer, and a pumpkin flavor in the fall. An added bonus, the donuts are made fresh daily, bagged or boxed while still warm, and intended to be eaten as quickly as possible. Some locals would say a bag of Lerch’s Donuts should be eaten before leaving the parking lot.
Lerch’s Donuts has been owned by Joe and Gail Snyder since 1995 who, with their daughters and a dedicated staff, take care to preserve the legacy that bakery owner John Lerch started in 1933.
Find Lerch’s Donuts from late March through Thanksgiving at county fairs, tractor pulls, and other special events. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch their freezer sale and you can stock up for the winter. They typically make their last seasonal appearance at downtown Wooster’s Window Wonderland, which will be held this year on Friday, November 18.