Nearly two years after its first store closed in Front Royal, Naughty Girls Donut Shop held a grand opening at its new Sterling location recently.
The opening comes after the company tried twice to crowd-source funds to keep their business afloat on Kickstarter and GoFundMe, took out high interest loans, and the owner, Natalie Ramos, and her husband filed for bankruptcy in October 2016.
A few months after the Front Royal location shut down, Natalie Ramos’ daughter Tiana Ramos posted a five-minute video to the company Facebook page as a sort of good-bye to the doughnut business.
“I want to say thanks for all the support that I’ve been, you know, given … after the whole shop thing and everything that’s been going on,” Tiana Ramos said in the video. “That’s behind us, you know. We’re on a new slate now.”
That was two years ago. Now Naughty Girls is back, and to Natalie Ramos, the future is bright.
“(Tiana) had forgotten about this shop, so did I. It wasn’t until investors approached us that it was to be revamped. Because we completely walked away from it,” Natalie Ramos said. “There’s miracles behind miracles on this shop … This shop was about a girl with her dreams, and a girl that wanted to change the world.”
Tiana Ramos, though she designed the Sterling location’s menu, has had a limited role in the business’ operations. She’s studying business management at Temple University so that she can come back and run the doughnut shop.
Naughty Girls Donut Shop made national headlines in 2014 after receiving a pseudo-anonymous letter signed “Local Catholics of Front Royal” that threatened a boycott of its business unless the company ceased advertising in one of the town’s local newspapers.
The Ramoses interpreted the boycott threat as a reaction to the store’s pin-up model aesthetic.
“The name of the shop has proven to be controversial, however, and a strong conservative alliance group in the town is threatening to lead a boycott,” read a Naughty Girls news release in September 2014. “Natalie Ramos, Tiana’s mother, is disappointed that her daughter’s dream has been so misunderstood, especially when she has seen Tiana create such inspiration for others and invest so much of her own time and money into the people of front Royal. (sic)”
After the Ramos’ story was covered by local media, the same story appeared on several national media outlets, including a 2015 MTV article in which Tiana Ramos expressed her frustration with Front Royal, saying “the town completely hates me.”
However, Naughty Girls was not the only local business to receive a boycott threat concerning its advertisements in the local newspaper.
A month before the boycott letter was sent out, Front Royal held a public hearing to gauge the community’s reaction to the town repealing its ban on fortune telling and practicing the magical arts at local businesses.
Several speakers at the public hearing cited their religious faith when explaining their support for the ban, and one speaker mentioned a local paper’s coverage of the matter, adding that she would call for a boycott of businesses that advertise in that paper.
“Overall, I think it was a combination of a lot of things (that led to the boycott),” Natalie Ramos said. “What we’re trying to do is leave that behind. I don’t want this shop to be branded with the boycott, with negative publicity. We really want this shop to be just focused on Tiana and what her dream was.”
Naughty Girls Donut Shop was bought by SNM Global Holdings in April. SNM had aspirations to make Naughty Girls a national brand, and mentioned that the “shop was boycotted by a group of religious extremist (sic)” in its promotional material for the business.
Natalie Ramos, however, eventually severed ties with SNM, because “they wanted to brand this shop similar to that of a, let’s say, a Hooters.”
The doughnut shop maintains strong ties with people from Front Royal. Several of its employees are from Front Royal, and in the couple of weeks it’s been open, people have driven from Front Royal to Sterling to support the business, she said.
“There was indeed some negativity in Front Royal, but there was also positive, and there were some great people that supported this shop and helped us to get where we were,” Natalie Ramos said. “People that stood by us, people that were there. And we appreciate all of Front Royal and what they did for us.”
Despite the business’ initial failure in Front Royal, Ramos appreciates the lessons she learned from the town.
“It was a great learning experience. With any business, you know, you learn … (Front Royal) was our beta tester,” Ramos said. “It was a good experience and we learned how to try to rectify and do better the next time.”