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The interior of Zombie Coffee and Donuts on May 20, 2020, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

Zombie Coffee & Donuts is celebrating its fourth anniversary on May 23. As part of the celebration, the shop is offering several specials for doughnut lovers and coffee fanatics alike: a $30 Do-It-Yourself Donut Decorating Kit, $4 off a dozen doughnuts on Saturday and free doughnuts for active military and veterans on Memorial Day.

University of Georgia alumnus Tony Raffa graduated with a business degree in 2015 and started working on Zombie Coffee & Donuts soon after. Raffa said celebrating the shop’s fourth-anniversary feels surreal.

“Being a part of the Athens community has always been exciting and rewarding,” Raffa said. “I’m saying all this with a pretty big smile on my face.”

Like many other small businesses in town, the coronavirus outbreak was hard on Zombie Donuts. Raffa said getting employees the hours and pay they needed was a big part of the business’ pandemic response. From a sales perspective, he said the outbreak has been devastating.

In a press release, Raffa said he hoped the anniversary specials would serve as a way to thank the community for its continued support, especially over the last few months.

As a part of the anniversary celebration, Zombie announced the launch of their DIY Donut Decorating Kit. The kit comes with 12 doughnuts (chocolate and vanilla), three icings (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry) and six toppings (sprinkles, gummy worms, Fruity Pebbles, M&M’s and crushed Oreo cookies). Raffa said the idea for the kit has been in the works for a while, but his creative employees helped bring the concept to life.

“The idea was to give people something fun, and obviously delicious,” Raffa said. “This seems like something that people really need and want right now.”

On May 23, the DIY Donut Decorating Kit comes with a complimentary box of Zombie’s coffee, in the roast of your choice. Raffa’s favorite is the light roast — it has more caffeine, he said. If you’d rather skip decorating the doughnuts and go straight to eating them, Zombie is also offering $4 off purchases of a dozen doughnuts on May 23.

Every month, Zombie Coffee and Donuts donates 5% of their net proceeds to a local charity. Customers vote for one of three charities at checkout, and at the end of the month, the charity with the most votes receives the donation. This month, the charities are Saving Mothers at UGA, Shop With A Bulldawg (SWAB) and Athens PRIDE. Raffa said continuing Zombie’s community impact mission was another big part of its coronavirus response.

“If there was ever a time where community impact is necessary, now more than ever is that time,” Raffa said.

However, the pandemic has challenged the way Zombie Donuts raises awareness of the monthly charities. Raffa said without customers coming in the store, there’s no “in your face” way to inform them about the charities. Customers who visited Zombie Donuts before the pandemic would usually take a moment to read about all three of the monthly charities. Raffa said the educational side of the program is just as important as the financial side.

Raffa said the shop has been trying to highlight the charities on its social media pages, but he is still thinking of a way to make sure customers have the same experience with the program as they would in-store. Customers wanting to participate in the program, for now, can leave their vote in the comment section of their pick-up or delivery orders.

Although the coronavirus has somewhat hindered Raffa’s philanthropic efforts, he said that the Zombie Gives Back Program is still one of the most important parts of his business.

“[The program] is a big part of what drives me,” Raffa said. “I always see the sales of our coffee and doughnuts kind of a means to an end to support the community.”

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