Get to know the three entrepreneurs behind Donut Shop, a design and build studio based in Detroit
Jake Saphier, co-owner of design and build studio The Donut Shop in Detroit, works the welding machine.
Photos by CJ Benninger
Inside a 1920s bank building just north of Woodbridge on Grand River Avenue, three men under the age of 30 run a design and build studio called Donut Shop. With a focus on using wood and metal, Donut Shop creates handcrafted furniture as well as custom, one-off design pieces for businesses and homes. Every piece is built in-house, by hand, and is guaranteed to be unique.
The co-owners and friends — David Eppig, Ian Klipa, and Jake Saphier — met while attending art school at the University of Michigan. While none of the three is originally from Michigan, they chose to move to Detroit to pursue their business. There, they joined the city’s ever-growing Maker Movement, the umbrella term used for independent inventors and designers.
“If I go back to New York, there’s no way I could sustain doing this — having a shop,” Saphier says. “The immediate draw was how affordable our studio was. Then, after being here a little bit and seeing the community of makers, (we realized) it’s a really nice environment and it’s friendly enough where you can walk around town, walk into a restaurant, and know who made a particular table or bar — that’s a rare thing in other big cities, to be able to go in somewhere and know who made specific items.”
Donut Shop is all about experimenting with materials like reclaimed wood, colored paint, and challenging techniques. The core line includes coffee tables, desks, and chairs, but the trio has the most fun with their custom projects.
three’s company From left to right: Creative makers Ian Klipa, Jake Saphier, and David Eppig.
As both designers and makers, the team at Donut Shop offers their customers the whole process, from ideation to finished/deliverable. Eppig’s expertise is in woodworking, so he heads up many wood projects. He’s worked in a custom furniture studio, and has run an independent wood shop. Klipa and Saphier do the metalworking — both have experience in a variety of shops, and bring their own sensibilities to the process.
“Whether you have detailed specifications or a vague idea of what you want, we’ll guide you from initial sketches to a finished piece,” Klipa says. One example of working with a client on a unique idea includes a sculptural/usable steel chair made for Linda Dresner, a clothing boutique in Birmingham. The project took the team nearly 100 hours to complete, and included welding and hand-hammering the steel.
Have an old piece of wood you’ve always wanted to turn into a one-of-a-kind piece, or looking for something unique for your home? Donut Shop can execute your ideas.
“We’ve been able to purchase all our own equipment, which is something that a lot of other young businesses aren’t able to do,” Eppig says. “This enables Donut Shop to efficiently integrate both wood and metal into projects without the long turnaround times caused by outsourcing to other fabricators.”
Last year, when they first set up shop inside the bank building, they had no heat during the winter and worked out of a small space they shared with a local rock band. Over time, they’ve expanded the studio to nearly 1,500 square feet, and added heat and more electric hook-ups for all the equipment they’ve acquired. Today, a sliding wooden door leads into a large workshop, where murals and artwork line the walls. Clients and the curious are welcome to stop by the studio from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, but call first to let a member of the team know when to expect you. The neighborhood doesn’t have street parking and the studio doesn’t have a sign — not yet, anyway.
Sparks of creativity fly as Saphier works with a grinder; Ian Klipa, Dave Eppig, and Jake Saphier; and Donut Shop’s various tools of the trade.