19-year-olds take ownership of Paradise Donuts | TheUnion.com

19-year-olds take ownership of Paradise Donuts

Stephen Roberson
Staff Writer

At midnight tonight, Clayton Sorensen will roll into Paradise.

The 19-year-old Bear River High School graduate will do the same thing he does every night, seven days a week, 12 hours a shift.

For hours he'll make doughnuts. His friend and business partner Lily Parker, also 19, will come in hours later to handle the customers, the billing, the purchasing and everything else that comes with owning a business.

She, too, does this seven days a week.

Less than two months ago, Sorensen and Parker took over ownership of Paradise Donuts. So while their friends work part-time jobs and attend classes, the former BriarPatch colleagues are knee deep in adulthood.

"At first I didn't know what to do," said Parker, who worked for former owners Steve Switzer and Dave Gough for five months before purchasing the business. "I didn't know if I could run a business. Then I had my friend come in, and he's awesome, and we decided to do it.

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"It's not super crazy, but it's different than just working a job. It's stressful but it's really fun."


Neither Parker nor Sorensen have a background in business. They've both spent their short working careers in the food service industry, but both are taking the challenge on with enthusiasm.

"Sometimes it's weird, but usually it's pretty easy to catch on," Parker said. "I think it's better than having to go take classes or something. It's all learning hands on, right now. The previous owners are helping a lot.

Sorensen, who has dreams of one day opening a fine-dining restaurant, says this is what he was born to do.

"I've always had kind of an entrepreneur heart," he said.

While the two are powering through right now, both realize eventually they're going to need to hire help. Working seven days a week, 12 hours a day, is an invitation to burnout.

"Right now we're just trying to get enough money in the account and have enough to cover anything that breaks, because it is expensive to have employees," Sorensen said.

In the meantime, the goal is to expand the business.

"We definitely want to change things," Parker said. "We want to start bringing in muffins and cakes and cookies. We're going to start that soon, just incorporating local and more organic options because it's just donuts right now. Once we have time and money we'll be able to do that."


Switzer and Gough also own Gold Run Laundromat a few doors down. Last year, the two retired Redwood City Police Department sergeants opened their franchise of Paradise Donuts, which hosts a chain of stores throughout 20 states and has a doughnut recipe that dates to the 1930s.

Their goal: create a unique doughnut shop in a unique environment.

Things didn't work out with the manager they hired. Switzer's wife, Edy, started spending long hours in the doughnut shop. What was originally intended to be an oversight role became far too consuming.

It wasn't how any of them wanted to spend retirement.

So they offered to help Parker buy them out.

"It wasn't a lot (of money)," Parker said. "They were really helpful. They're really cool people."

Parker turned to Sorensen, whom she met while working at BriarPatch, and invited him to become her partner.

"It was hard to believe at first," Sorensen said. "Once it sunk in, I realized it was a great opportunity for someone my age and something I couldn't pass up. For two days I thought about this, then I was dead set on doing it."

To contact Staff Writer Stephen Roberson, email sroberson@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


What: Paradise Donuts

Where: 1237 E. Main Street, Grass Valley

Phone: 530-433-1010

Hours: 5:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lilynparker/

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