Donut Worry, Be Happy: The Story Behind Fancy Donuts

Photographer: Amanda J. Raaska

Donuts are a well-loved breakfast food staple. Among the many places to get these sugary treats in Huntsville, Fancy Donuts sits unassumingly on Sam Houston Avenue.

Owner Robert Garrett is the type to greet you with a friendly hello, ask how your day is and then maybe get your whole life story during the conversation. Citizens of Huntsville have come to know Garrett, but there’s more than meets the eye.

Garrett’s life has taken a winding path, from a career in the army that ended in 2003, to eventually becoming a millwright for three years, where he installed and serviced industrial equipment and generator turbines.

“I highly recommend [that job] for anyone that has a bent for solving problems with a sledgehammer and cutting torch, as well as a dim view of staying home on a regular basis,” Garrett said.

One day, he decided to change his routine and went to a donut shop to pick up breakfast for the crew. That’s when donuts changed his life.

“I actually met my wife through a donut shop as a customer,” Garrett said. “I happened to stop at the one shop where she happened to be working the drive through, which weakens my belief in happenstance.”

With his wife/boss, Sokhim Garrett-Sar alongside him, they started a donut shop in Lovelady before eventually moving the shop to Huntsville.

Fancy Donuts has been open for three years, and Garrett has some words about what makes a good business.

“Work,” he said. “Put effort into it, because both you and the folks you deal with are worth the work. Try to understand that every person that comes in has their own people they love and care about. Try to realize that the designation as a city or as a location will never be as important as the folks who are in it.”

Robert started to become sick and needed to be at VA hospitals starting May 23. Fancy Donuts is in the process of being handed over to Garrett’s wife’s family members.

On July 2, he had to undergo brain surgery to remove tumors and began going through radiation on Aug. 8.

“One of the most wonderful things about humans is that we’re fully aware that we won’t be here forever,” Garrett said. “It gives us incentive to work harder towards making things right and it gives us pause long enough to consider the people around us.”

While undergoing treatments, Garrett still finds time to work at the shop. He proves that success has more to do with mentality than physicality.

“I used to tell my people in the army—along with many, many unprintable things—that you can’t always be at your best, but you can always do your best,” he said. “If you do that, you have nothing to be ashamed of.”

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