Blue Collar Joes: Worth the Drive for Designer Donuts

Specialties at Blue Collar Joe’s.
Specialties at Blue Collar Joe’s.

You haven’t had a real treat until you’ve tried a designer donut from Blue Collar Joe’s. These scrumptious goodies are guaranteed to make your sweet tooth feel fuller than a Thanksgiving dinner. The specialty cake-like donuts delight the eyes and tickle the tongue.

The eatery, located on US 220 in Daleville not far from Exit 150 (1171 Roanoke Road, 992-JOES), offers donuts, luncheon wraps and coffee to drive-by patrons and walk-ins alike.

Owner Daniel Knight starts making fresh donuts at 4 a.m. every morning, mixing up delicious concoctions dripping with chocolate and bearing names like the Botetourt Bog, Chocolate Cheesecake and Black Forest.

Not only does Knight make individual donuts that will bring a smile to any day, he also has recently branched out into donut cakes. The themed piles of colorful and creative donut cakes are truly astonishing.

There’s the Jamaican cake, a vision of a newlywed couple on a sunset beach, complete with tree frogs to complement the bride’s tattoo. Or the Bachelorette cake, which is not for PG-rated eyes, unlike the Spiderman or Superman cakes – which are.

The genius behind the decorator cakes is Pru Knight, Daniel’s wife. Though she also works full time at Carilion, somehow she finds time to create delicate and delightful one-of-a-kind confections. The intriguing donut cakes range from $25 to $200, depending on the intricacies of the design.

Blue Collar Joe’s opened in October 2008 and is celebrating its one-year anniversary this month by introducing new lunch items. They now serve sandwich wraps, soups, chili and mac & cheese.

Opening a specialty restaurant during a recession has been a challenge, said Daniel Knight. “Any day I can turn on the lights is a good day,” he confessed. Still, he considers the first year a success because folks are finding him and delighting in his offerings. He expects the second year to be better.

His business is located in a former gas station. He turned the area where the pumps used to be into a drive-thru. “I have people pull up every day and ask for gasoline,” Knight said, trying hard to hide a smile. “I offer them coffee [instead]. People are still getting used to drive-by coffee here in Botetourt.”

His creative remodeling of the premises earned him a “Magic Makeover” award from the Valley Conservation Council, which applauded his creative adaptive reuse of the structure. His restaurant also earned “Best New Thing, Best Place for Breakfast, Best Place for Coffee, Best Place for Lunch, and Best Place to Take the Relatives” in a local publication poll.

The happy shopkeeper encourages his staff to be creative and allows them to come up with their own donuts. A Turtle donut, created by one of his workers, has proven to be exceedingly popular. To date he has 195 donuts on his menu, though he only displays about 40 different varieties each day.

Knight had 14 years of experience in the restaurant business before he decided to become a donut maker. Freshness is key to his product; he does not sell day-old donuts. He also serves ice cream, shakes, mochas, lattes and fresh fruit smoothies.

His logo, a dog drinking a cup of coffee and eating a donut, comes from Knights’ love of animals. Proceeds from a tip jar in the shop go to the League for Animal Protection, a no-kill shelter in Fincastle.

Knight grew up in Ocean City, Maryland and moved to Roanoke with his wife in 1994. He worked for HSN as Director of Quality Assurance until the job went overseas three years ago. That’s when the entrepreneur decided it was time to make donuts. Botetourt County folks are mighty glad he did. For others in the valley, it’s well worth the drive. (See bluecollarjoes.net for more info.)

Anita J. Firebaugh
info@theroanokestar.com