It’s a clear Lake County winter morning. The morning sun glints down off Susie Q’s Donuts and Espresso, reflecting off the building. It’s a hard place to miss; the bright pink paint draws the eyes immediately. Step inside, and, depending on the time of day, the smell of donuts, bacon, or coffee fills the building. The same pink that covers the outside continues indoors. Dark wood floors and tables contrast the bright walls, and country music comes through the speakers, creating an inviting atmosphere. It’s a place to come, grab a donut or sandwich, and sit down to enjoy them over a cup of coffee.
Co-Owner David Brown sits at one of the tables, leaning back on the bench. We first met David at the Hands Up Lake County Competition, where he took third place. “We used that money to make a big upgrade,” he says. “We moved to this location, and now we have two kitchens, a conference room, and two espresso machines.” He looks towards the spacious kitchen area, where his wife Christy walks back and forth in an apron, preparing sandwiches. “We have more room now, and we added a drive-up window.” As he speaks, a car pulls up, and an employee scoots out to take their order. Soon the espresso machine burbles, and she heads back with a coffee and donut for them.
David turns back to us. He’s a gregarious person and talks with his hands, revealing a Susie Q’s tattoo on one forearm, the Q a pink glazed donut. Christy, his wife, stays busy at work in the kitchen, adding to the conversation between her tasks. As we talk, David says something about moving to southern California.
“Is that why you’re a Dodgers fan?” I ask, noticing the LA tattoo on his other forearm, complemented by a Dodgers hat.
“I’ve always been a fan,” he smiles. “I was driving trucks in Southern California with my dad’s business, and when he passed, I needed a change.” He runs his hand across his face, smoothing his short beard. “My brother started Susie Q’s but couldn’t run it, so he sold it to us. You know, my wife and I met at a donut shop in Paradise,” he adds.
So it’s only fitting that they would run a donut shop here. A steady stream of customers come through the doors, leaving with one, two, or a dozen of Susie Q’s donuts. The case, nearly full when we entered, slowly empties of apple fritters, cream-filled maple bars, almond croissants, and glazed donuts. They also run a steady DoorDash business, and at least three times while we sit, a delivery leaves. That’s how they kept open through the lockdowns of Covid.
“We’re one of the only businesses that didn’t shut down,” David says. “Our deliveries kept us going, and Lakeport used us as an example for other businesses.” He pauses for a second. “You heard I caught Covid, right? I was in the hospital for fourteen days.
“The other patients had the ventilators,” he continues. “So I didn’t get one. It’s true what they were saying about a shortage of ventilators at that time. But,” he adds, “I kept a positive attitude. I didn’t fight the doctors. ‘Do whatever you need to do,’ I told them. There was a time I had CNAs feeding me because I had an IV in each arm. They treated me so well.”
Even though things were bad for David, he pulled through. However, Covid did have lingering effects. “When I came back to Susie Q’s,” he says, “I couldn’t handle the fine dust from the flour. I kept coughing.
“So I started thinking about what else I could do and thought ice cream might work. We ended up taking over Corner Creamery in November.” He pauses for a second and laughs. “We had a hard time naming it. We tried Scoops, Susie Q’s Ice Cream, a blend of our kids’ names, and none seemed right. Then I called a friend of mine and told him I couldn’t think of a name. ‘Don’t you call your wife and kids ‘Sweet Pea’? he asked me, and it stuck.”
“My thirteen-year-old drew some peas in a pod,” David points at the T-shirt he’s wearing, which has the words “Sweet Pes” written on it, and four peas in a peapod below. “That’s me,” he says, pointing at the pea on the left with a baseball cap. “That’s my daughter with her phone,” he smiles. “And that’s Christy on the right. Her hair’s always in a bun, so the heart on top of the pea looks like a bun.” He pulls the shirt wide so we can see it. It’s evident that David’s family means the world to him, and he always talks about his children with pride in his voice.
“We opened up in November, and people said we were crazy to open a shop in fall when there’s no traffic. But I think it’s perfect. We’ve got the slow season to get the hang of things before the rush of summer.”
It’s a smart plan, and David’s constantly trying new ideas. At Sweet Peas, they’ve got boba, pie shakes (yes, that’s correct, a pie shake. Pick a piece of pie, and they’ll combine it with ice cream to make a shake), and recently, ice cream sandwiches, made with homemade cookies from Crazy Quilt Farm. And they only choose high-end ice cream from Gunthers in Sacramento and Cowlicks in Fort Bragg. Every week David makes the drive to pick up some of Northern California’s best sweets.
Of course, things are still new at Sweet Pea’s Ice Cream, and David’s got more plans. “We’re cornering the sweets market,” he smiles. We’ve got you for breakfast, lunch, and dessert.”
But the Browns have done more for Lake County than just providing tasty sweets; they also have become deeply involved in the community. There’s always something the business is supporting. David’s vice-president of the Fair Foundation, on Lakeport’s Traffic Safety Advisory Committee, and is now serving on Lakeport’s Main Street Association. Currently, Susie Q’s is working on a fundraiser raffle for Lakeport Police’s K-9 program. Last month, they sold blue donuts to raise awareness for human trafficking. They’re helping out with Sober Grad this month, as well as working to raise funds for Terrace Middle School’s eighth-grade graduation. But that’s just a short list.
“Oh,” David adds as we get up to say our goodbyes, “Did I mention what we’re also working with St. Jude’s?”
It’s how David and Christy live their lives. “You gotta give as much as you receive,” he says. “The community gives to us, so we want to give back.”
301 N Main St, Lakeport, CA 95453
Hours: 11-8 Tuesday through Thursday
11-9 Friday and Saturday
You can also order on DoorDash
501 S Main St, Lakeport, CA 95453
Hours: 6 AM-2 PM Monday through Saturday
You can also order on DoorDash