Fans wait in long lines for these sourdough doughnuts. Next stop: Johnson County

It all started two years ago, with the family pet, Bubbles.

And by “pet,” Jeff and Jessica Dunkel mean a yeasty mixture of flour and water.

The Dunkels were gifted the sourdough starter from San Francisco — unsure how old it was — and food scientist Jessica used it to make loaves of bread. And loaves, and loaves.

Soon, she was pouring portions of Bubbles into every recipe she could. One of those experiments was sourdough doughnuts: a tangier, fluffier version.

Needless to say, she was a fan of the result.

About two years ago, the Dunkels, who live in De Soto, began selling their filled doughnuts at the Lawrence farmers market. Their three boys — now 12, 9 and 7 — came in tow. When the line by their doughnut stall grew longer each Saturday, the couple decided to go all-in with Slow Rise, launching social media, a website and merchandise.

Now, when Jessica and Jeff pull into the farmers market on Saturdays to set up, customers are already lined up. They’ll wait hours for the stall to open up.

“I always tell them they don’t need to. You can come 15 minutes early,” Jessica said, laughing. “But I have no control over that.”

Good news for Slow Rise fans in the Kansas City area: You’ll no longer have to drive to Douglas County for doughnuts. Starting May 11, Slow Rise will begin selling them every other Saturday at the Overland Park Farmers’ Market.

Jessica and Jeff Dunkel bring their three boys with them on farmers market days.
Jessica and Jeff Dunkel bring their three boys with them on farmers market days.

Jessica said they would’ve loved to sell them every week at both, but they don’t quite have the inventory and manpower. Maybe someday.

In the meantime, Slow Rise were set to be at “The Tortured Poets Department” pop-up event Saturday at Fetch clothing store in the West Bottoms.

To make the doughnuts, Jessica adds Bubbles to the other ingredients, then lets the doughnuts rise for up to 72 hours, a process called “proofing.” (That’s where the name Slow Rise comes from.)

Jessica and Jeff get up the morning of an event to fry the doughnuts fresh. The doughnuts are filled, then dusted in sugar. The result is a golden brown, airy doughnut.

Slow Rise sells pandan coconut, lavender lemon, blackberry lime, everything-but-the-bagel, and other flavors.

“A lot of people say they could eat multiple in one sitting,” Jessica said. “They’re not too sweet.”

She said she’s been blown away by the reaction from Lawrence and the Kansas City area. Their Instagram has amassed 14,000 followers.

“We’re always grateful for the time people take to support us,” Jessica said. “We get nervous every time we see the line — we want to get it moving as fast as we can.”

It’s not uncommon for the couple to sell out before the market closes for the day.

“The biggest surprise for us is … our regulars. It means a lot that they’re willing to give up so much time,” Jeff said.

With such success, the Dunkels are frequently asked if they’re opening a storefront. To which they reply, “Maybe.” Right now they’re focusing on quality, perfecting their process, and seeing where it goes from here.

“The best of our ability, we want to present our creations,” Jessica said. “We just hope the doughnuts are good enough for people to come back.”

For now, it’s just Jessica, Jeff, their three boys and one farmers market helper.

And Bubbles.