For most people, biting into a sweet, chewy piece of fried dough will guarantee a smile. When entrepreneurs Anabelle Brown and Kim Gros partnered up, they wanted to create a space that would bring everyone that joy.

They plan to open their shop, Moonbridge Doughnut Studio, this December near El Dorado Park West.

The space is going to be colorful, quirky, whimsical, sophisticated, yet playful. Think award-winning movie director Wes Anderson. Now imagine he had a little sister and she opened a donut shop in Long Beach—that’s how Brown describes it.

They’ll serve brioche donuts, cake donuts, crullers, old-fashioned, bear claws with unique flavors you’ve probably never tried, Brown said. They’re not ready to release those flavors just yet.

“We’re further refining it,” Brown said. “We’re at about 20 flavors, but we don’t know if we want that much right now.”

Kim Gros, left and Anabelle Brown stand in their new business, Moonbridge Doughnut Studio, which is still under construction and soon to open in Long Beach, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

The shop will be a place of celebration where donut designs will be rotated to match trends, movie releases and other pop-culture moments. Stereoscope Coffee, which has a location on Second Street, will be paired with their artisan pastry, and they plan to partner with other local vendors for pop-ups.

The word artisan can be intimidating, but Brown insists it’s just a description of the level of craft put into each product.

“Everything is made from scratch. It’s made from a lot of love and thought and labor, and there’s just so many components that are very creative,” Brown said. “For our brand, we want to provide something that feels more special.”

Deciding on that brand and menu has taken years, born out of a search for hope.

In February of 2021, Gros’ brother-in-law, Randy, passed away. As her family waded through the process of grief, the idea of creating a shop Randy would’ve loved seemed like a way to transform sadness into something meaningful and long-lasting.

“My sister and I were talking about what does this look like? What does life look like for her? How do you keep the memory of somebody alive?” Gross said. “You think of Día De Los Muertos and I’d probably leave a good cup of coffee and a donut for him.”

Gros, the visionary behind Steel Craft, a Long Beach-based eatery located in repurposed shipping containers, knew she needed to find a perfect partner for that dream to become a reality. Brown was the ideal candidate.

Across county lines in neighboring Orange County, Brown had been putting her art degree to use on edible creations.

“I had this romantic idea in college where I’d wake up early in the morning and go to work at a bakery,” Brown said. “I was like, you know what, I think I’m just going to go for it.”

She ended up at Honey & Butter, a macaron shop, which became popular on social media for artisan pastries made in the shape of well-known characters like Kirby and Big Bird from Sesame Street.

When the pandemic hit, like many others, she dove head first into further honing her baking and decorating skills.

“I had so much energy that I wasn’t using because I wasn’t producing macarons 40 hours a week,” Brown said.

Brown started an online baking club with friend Elisa Sunga, which gained tons of social media traction and started her own cookie business.

Prior to joining Moonbridge, she didn’t have donut-making experience, but it was a huge part of her family’s history.

Brown’s family immigrated from Cambodia, first stopping in the Philippines before landing in Long Beach in 1975. They escaped Cambodia as refugees during the Khmer Rouge’s systematic killing of Cambodian citizens.

And like many Cambodian immigrants, Brown’s family found donut-making to be a way of earning money. Her family knew The Donut King, Ted Ngoy, also a Cambodian immigrant who created a multi-billion dollar donut empire.

“My grandpa used to work at Winchell’s,” Brown said. “Eventually, I believe he owned a couple, too.”

Months after agreeing to work with Gros, Brown experienced her own encounter with grief. Her grandfather, Rothary Sisowath Dimang, died in May 2022.

“I was already working on the concept with Kim,” Brown said. “With my grandfather’s passing, it almost became more important and more deeply embedded that I feel like this is right, almost like an ode to the things that my family has experienced.”

As the time nears for the shop to be open, the women are excited for people to finally experience the countless hours of work put into every detail—even the layers of meaning behind the shop’s name.

Moon bridges form when the design of a bridge’s art hits the water just right to create an image of a perfect circle. Initially, it was a wink to a donut’s shape, but the women were drawn to it for other reasons.

“I thought of being able to bridge this space of grief to this other space of hope,” Brown said.

“Who we are is made up of what you physically see, but then there’s so much of what you don’t,” Gros said. “We’re made up of a story that you don’t know yet or you might not ever know, but that’s made us whole.”

Because Long Beach has been such a large part of their stories, the choice to open up their shop in the city was intentional, and being part of this community was a priority. The shop is still under construction, but they are aiming to have a soft opening in December.

Moonbridge Doughnut Studio will be located at 6344 E. Spring Street.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Moonbridge.