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August 22, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Just opened, O Face doughnuts already packing them in

The mere fact that two of its morning offerings contained bacon is a sign that O Face is on the right track.

Another sign: by 10 a.m., a rush of customers at O Face doughnuts had decimated most of the selections behind the counter. That’s remarkable for a business yet to have signage, that’s only been open a few days and is housed in a building still being renovated.

“I’m a little nervous,” said owner Sonny Ahuja, adding he might have to ramp up staffing sooner than he expected. “It’s a good problem to have, though.”

O Face is the first of several businesses Downtown Project is opening in the former John E. Carson hotel at the northwest corner of Carson Avenue and 6th Street.

Crystal Whitford, O Face’s pastry chef, could barely contain her smile when asked about business.

She rattled off a list of doughnuts and how they might fit in the day-to-day menus. Key Lime Curd, Lemon Meringue, Creme Fraiche Glazed, Mexican Chocolate are just a few.

Customers can also get doughnuts made to order, a process that takes about five minutes, Whitford said. Made-to-order varieties include doughnuts with lox, cream cheese and capers, and a pizza doughnut.

“Coming up with ideas is not the hard part,” said Whitford, who has a list of some 300 doughnut recipes. “The hard part is narrowing it down.”

Whitford and Ahuja also made a trip to Seattle, where they sought coffee-brewing guidance from Caffe Vita. The end product is a coffee with a smoothness not easily found anywhere else in the Las Vegas Valley.

The iced coffee is cold-brewed — it isn’t made hot then cooled — and will be dispensed via the kind of tap you see in a bar.

O Face — if you don’t know the reference, check out the movie “Office Space” — is a business Ahuja said he always wanted to start. “Most people who come into a doughnut shop are in a good mood,” he said.

Ahuja also owns wine bar Bin 702 in the Container Park. Years ago, he ran Bleu Gourmet in Summerlin until the recession forced him out of business, he said. He now works on Downtown Project’s small-business team.

By many accounts, Bin 702 is one of the businesses doing well in the Container Park. If O Face follows suit, people may start asking, “What’s the secret?”

“For downtown, it’s important that we create an exemplary atmosphere that puts out a great product with great service,” Ahuja said. “And then listen to feedback and try not to be too defensive about the negative reviews. Constantly strive to be better.”

O Face has a retro feel. Background music is from the ‘70s, a starburst clock hangs from the wall and golden metallic fixtures light the spare seating area.

Ahuja slaps the shop’s original exposed brick wall.

“You can’t get this in a lot of places,” he says. “To be in Vegas in a mid-’50s building, it’s badass.”

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown; he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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