After more than a decade, Donut Bar is leaving behind its cramped quarters on B Street and relocating to a larger ground-floor space in a downtown high-rise where the owner plans to meld augmented reality with sweet, artisanal confections.

The move marks a major transition for the lines-out-the-door operation that was both a destination for doughnut aficionados and downtown’s office workers. While the population of people working in offices fell considerably during the pandemic, the relocation was driven more by a need for additional space than changes driven by COVID-19, said owner Santiago Campa.

The new Donut Bar & Bakery is scheduled to make its debut Monday morning at 1 Columbia Place, 410 W. A St., just a block from Little Italy. The former B Street storefront served its last doughnut this past Monday.

“Our decision to relocate from our longstanding location on B Street after 11 years was primarily driven by our desire to elevate our offerings and create a more expansive experience for our customers,” Campa said Thursday. “While changes in the downtown area post-COVID were considered, our move was primarily motivated by the opportunity to grow and evolve.”

The new store will be occupying a space in the 27-story Columbia 1 office tower, part of a portfolio of San Diego high-rises that Los Angeles- and Dallas-based Regent Properties purchased three years ago. Built in 1982, the property, at the time it was acquired, had last been updated in 2014.

Donut Bar, known for its over-sized, generously glazed doughnuts — from red velvet and maple bacon to raspberry cheesecake and creme brulee — will, for the first time, be branching out into other sweets, including freshly prepared pastries, cakes and croissants. The new space will include two levels of outdoor patios, a much expanded kitchen and a whimsical decor, highlighted with splashes of black-and-white, comic-book-like drawings.

But what makes the new space especially unique is how augmented reality is being incorporated into a visit to the doughnut shop. Using QR codes and smartphone-scanning technology, customers will be transported to such iconic San Diego locations as Petco Park, the San Diego Convention Center, the airport, the USS Midway, the Rady Shell and Hotel del Coronado.

“Dana Scott Owens, aka DanaToons, has played an integral role in bringing this vision to life, creating ‘living art’ installations that captivate and delight visitors,” Campa said. “From animated displays to virtual scenes that evolve as guests move through the space, our augmented reality experience offers something truly unique for our customers to enjoy.”

Campa declined to disclose the cost of creating his new home for Donut Bar, saying only that the expansion represents “a significant commitment on our part.” It is also unclear if Regent Properties is involved financially in the venture beyond its role as a landlord. Representatives of Regent were unable to respond to queries by press time.

“Donut Bar & Bakery is thrilled to bring new energy and excitement to Regent Properties-1 Columbia Place,” Campa said. “We are excited to share our new creations with their tenants, patrons and community alike.”

At one time, Campa had high ambitions to expand his brand to multiple cities via a franchising group that six years ago was hoping to open shops in Temecula, Scottsdale, Riverside, Pasadena, North Hollywood/Burbank, Tucson, Sacramento and Anaheim. A few did open — in Pacific Beach and Chula Vista — while others opened and then abruptly closed.

In September 2020, the franchising arm of Donut Bar — Sweet Assets Franchise Group — filed for bankruptcy liquidation amid a lawsuit and franchisee arbitration claims. At the time of the Chapter 7 filing, Sweet Assets claimed to have $3,800 in assets and $2.4 million in liabilities.

Campa confirmed Thursday that the still operating Pacific Beach and Chula Vista stores are independent of his operation.

“Donut Bar & Bakery is now a standalone entity,” he said, “no longer affiliated with other locations.”

This article was originally published by Lori Weisberg for the San Diego Union Tribune. Read the original article here.