When his brother-in-law Gary Hadler asked for one last favor before passing away, Robert Taylor agreed. “Not realizing what a huge commitment it was, I said yes,” Taylor says. The last request: Resurrect Velvet Creme. Miami's first homegrown doughnut shop was, after all, Hadler's father's business.
Velvet Creme was founded by the elder Hadler in 1947, and Gary took over the business in the early '90s. It was a Miami staple for more than 50 years, with locations in Little Havana and South Miami. But in 2000, a family illness crippled the business. Their doughnuts went dormant until Taylor stepped in last year.
Taylor didn’t know much about the hole-in-a-dough delicacy. Growing up in Miami’s Westchester neighborhood, he remembers visiting a Mister Donut shop, but that’s as far as Taylor’s doughnut expertise went.
Taylor, a 26-year veteran of the Miami Beach Police Department, never imagined himself running a doughnut business years later. Since high school, his life was spent serving his community and his country. Drawn to flying, he started his career in the Air Force, and six years later, he enrolled in the Miami Beach Police Academy.
"I really wanted to fly,” he says. “But after a few years, I decided I wanted to give back to my community instead.”
After 17 years as a cop, Taylor became a detective, specializing in jewelry theft. About ten years later, he retired and created the South American Theft Group Intelligence Network, a melting pot of current and retired law enforcement officials who help one another combat organized crime.
“I retired from the police department, but I never stopped catching bad guys,” he says. “As a detective, I found there was a lack of intelligence sharing, so I decided to start this project to share information with people who wanted to.”
Taylor also decided to make good on his promise to his brother-in-law. But first, he had to find the right partners. "There’s things Gary couldn’t do when he had the brand,” he says. “He wasn’t able to take it across the country and expand. No one person can do any of this alone. It’s a team effort. I apply the same thing I’ve learned in law enforcement to doughnuts now. If I didn’t have partners, I wouldn’t be successful.”
He teamed up with Jorge Rios and his daughter Krista, who both remember Velvet Creme's original locations. At the time, the two were looking to start a business and would often reminisce about the doughnut shop.
"When I met Jorge, I automatically realized he was a partner I wanted," Taylor says, "and a partner I can expand the brand with. We just clicked. He had the same vision, drive, and emotions about the brand as me.”
In January 2015, the three opened a food truck to see how their product would fare with the community. Now, a year later, the team is working toward opening Velvet Creme's first brick-and-mortar since its closure in 2000. It’s slated to open this summer in Miami Shores. Doughnuts aside, Taylor still finds time to fight crime.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
“I concentrate half my time on doughnuts and half on catching bad guys,” he says. “I’m a workaholic anyway, and my wife is always working too. I’d say it’s about an 80-hour workweek every week for me.”
He says his dedication and drive are why he’s the way he is and how he has been able to build a career in law enforcement and resurrect a big-brand doughnut shop.
“I sleep like four hours a night,” he says. “But that’s all I’ve ever slept since the military. I like to work. I like the challenge. Honestly, I can’t imagine not doing the doughnut business now.”
Follow Clarissa Buch on Twitter.