Sok Proeun would never have imagined himself starting a business centered on doughnuts, but with lines of happy customers winding outside his store every morning, he isn’t complaining.
Proeun opened Kim’s Donuts, a shop selling homemade doughnuts and pastries, in January after working at a variety of jobs for the past several years.
He studied computer electronics for a few years in Phoenix, then moved to the Augusta area to be closer to his wife’s family. He worked for a cellphone store and then waited tables at Kyoto Japanese Cuisine on Belair Road.
He always wanted to own his own business but never thought of doughnuts until his mother suggested them.
In the seven months he’s been open, he said, the business has done better than expected.
“People have loved them,” he said.
Kim’s Donuts is on Evans to Locks Road near Blue Ridge Elementary School, and Proeun attributes much of the success to the location.
With nearby schools and businesses, the shop is right on the way for many people heading to work or taking their children to school, he said.
Proeun named the shop after his mother, Kim Proeun, who helped him with the initial investment and spent three months in Augusta spreading the word and building the customer base.
He believes her outreach brought most of his customers in originally, and the doughnuts keep them coming back.
“They love my mom,” he said.
Erica Badke is a stylist at The Jenn salon in the same shopping center as Kim’s Donuts, and she said the shop has been a welcome addition to the area.
“We’ve all eaten there, and we order lots and lots of doughnuts all the time,” she said.
She said Kim Proeun came by The Jenn before the doughnut shop opened, delivering a box of complimentary doughnuts.
Badke said the salon now orders boxes of doughnuts every Saturday for their own customers.
“They are busy all the time,” Badke said.
Sok Proeun was born in Thailand, but his family emigrated from Cambodia before he was born to escape violence there.
They came to the U.S. in 1983, and he said that he has always wanted to have his own business as a final part of fulfilling the American dream.
“I was very fortunate,” he said. “America is the place of opportunity, and I just want to make people happy and give back to this country.”
He wants to open two more Kim’s Donuts in south Augusta and North Augusta or Aiken, probably in the next year or so. He said he could move anywhere there are kids and families.
“Doughnuts are what kids like,” he said. “Usually what kids like will keep a business going.”