'Hole' New Experience

Written by: 
Meredith Moriak Wright

Ryan Martin ('09) (Photo by Babe Denny)While learning the principles of acting, stagecraft and set design as a UNT theatre arts student, Ryan Martin ('09) also learned to go with the flow.

"Being a theatre major exposed me to the diversity of ideas and emotions. I also learned to be reliant on myself, and take an improvisational approach to life," says Martin, who credits UNT theatre professors, especially assistant professor of voice and acting Sally Vahle, for helping him learn to trust himself and follow his own instincts.

After a brief stage acting and set carpentry career in Los Angeles he and his wife, Hallee Hirsh-Martin, decided to take an entrepreneurial path and settle in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The opportunity to live simply, homestead and grow their first business, Smoky Holler Sourdough Tortillas, lured the Martins to the mountains.

"We wanted a place for my son to play outside with four seasons," says Martin, who constructed the 712-square-foot yurt where he, wife and son August live in Marshall, North Carolina. Eventually, the Martins plan to build a cob house entirely from natural materials found on their land.

"I've always liked the outdoors and wished I could be a primitive person, but I never tried working toward it until we left Los Angeles and went down this hole rather rapidly," Martin says.

Seeking experience working with dough, skills that could transfer to the Martins' tortilla business, Hallee got a job at Hole Doughnuts, home of Bon Appetit's best dessert of 2016. A few months later, the owner decided to sell and the Martins decided to become full-time bakers. 

"Some people would probably say we're crazy," Martin says. "But if the universe gives you a doughnut shop, you make doughnuts."

The award-winning doughnuts are crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside, not overly sweet and served piping hot. Customers often wait more than 30 minutes and have come from Denmark and Africa asking for the recipe, Martin says.

Martin's new role as owner and baker at Hole Doughnuts, still yields opportunities to perform.

"Each doughnut is made-to-order, hand-stretched and looks Dr. Seuss-like with a bulbous appearance," says Martin, of the delicacies sold at his coffee shop in Asheville, North Carolina. "Our shop has an open kitchen and there's very much a theatrical aspect to the creation of each order that scratches that 'need to act' itch."