ELLSWORTH — Challenging the notion that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert, Oliver and Alexis Prior opened Imago Dei Bakery, featuring fresh sweet potato donuts in a wild riot of flavors, with a few months of home practice under their aprons.
For Oliver, the idea came to him as sheer inspiration after trying a donut shop’s potato-based offering.
“I had the donut, and I wasn’t that impressed,” he said. “I thought it lacked flavor. I thought if I replaced it with sweet potatoes….” Oliver had found the niche he had been praying for, he said, and over the next few months told Alexis, “I think I need to make sweet potato donuts. And I said it again and again and again.”
Alexis, who loves to cook, was fully on board with the idea. “It came out of the blue,” she said. An esthetician and nail technician running Salt of the Earth Day Spa out of their State Street home, Alexis said the family is “open to whatever God wants us to do.”
For now, that means waking up anywhere between 1:30 and 3 a.m., depending on the day’s orders, to start mixing, shaping, frying and icing donuts, all while Oliver works full time at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Alexis operates a slower-than-usual spa schedule because of COVID-19, and they raise 5-year-old Olivia, 3-year-old John and 15-month-old Kai.
“Right now, there’s no sleeping in,” Oliver said. “The days go by quick and they stack one right on top of the other.”
Imago Dei Bakery is open daily, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., except on Sundays, when hours are 7 to 9 a.m., although Alexis said the family could use one morning off. Plans to expand the bakery into a café are underway offering coffee and salads along with donuts. For now, customers step up to the back deck off the kitchen door to pick up pre-orders or see what is left for sale.
Now for the flavors. Scroll through Imago Dei Bakery’s Facebook page and salivate: Orange Creamsicle, Cherry Chip, Coconut Crème, Pistachio & Almond, Cinnamon Bun, Green Tea, Caramel Macchiato, Strawberry Bliss — the list goes on, including vegan and gluten-free options. May this customer suggest Peppermint Mocha? Dense, dark and sweet, with just the right amount of gooey icing and crushed candy topping, one’s eyes instinctively close for better tasting. The cranberry-orange donut explodes with flavor — “Zesting an orange is so much better than orange juice,” Alexis says — while the coconut cream is, well, divine. (Due diligence for this story meant eating three, yes, three donuts, and self-promises to try a Creamsicle donut.)
“It’s creating a personable experience,” Alexis said of their bakery and future café. “Right now, we’re open to whatever God wants us to do. We definitely want to expand it and make it amazing for the town.”
And just as they are open to divine inspiration, Oliver and Alexis see their early success as a way to pay it forward. “I have no desire to get rich,” Oliver said. “The desire would be to take all of the profits of the business and push them through benevolent charities that take care of people. Thirty-six million people died of starvation globally last year. We live with excess.”
Imago Dei Bakery is located at 184 State St. in Ellsworth. To place orders, call 669-5472, email [email protected] and visit imagodeicafe.org.