Spudnuts donut shop returns to city on Aug. 1

James Fenton
Brothers Scott, left, Kyle and Anthony Stowell stand outside their soon-to-open Johnny O's Spudnuts store on Friday in Farmington.

FARMINGTON – Brothers Scott and Kyle Stowell entered the working world as kids, making deliveries on their bicycles for their dad's donut shop.

Now, the Stowell brothers — joined by brother Anthony — will reopen their father's long-closed donut shop with a drive-through window and dine-in storefront on East 20th Street across from Smith's Food and Drug on Aug. 1.

"The Spudnuts company disappeared, but there were still all these lingering franchisees all over the country," Kyle Stowell said. "Still, today, there are Spudnuts all across the country — but they don't have the original recipe. They're using their own version, not the real thing."

The brothers are banking on the unique, potato-based donut brand that was a mainstay in San Juan County about 20 years ago.

"Spudnuts tastes different," Kyle Stowell said. "It's fluffier, it's not full of grease. It's not soggy at all. Even the glaze is different. It's not a bland donut. There's spices in it. It's amazing."

The brothers don't even know the full ingredients list for the top-secret potato-flour recipe. They just agree that it is delicious.

The donut company was launched in 1940, and was widely franchised by Al and Bob Pelton of Salt Lake City, brothers who created their signature potato-flour recipe and coined the name.

Farmington resident Bill Jolley brought the Spudnuts franchise and opened a store in 1953 on Main Street here. According to the Spudnuts museum in Lafayette, Ind., a franchise that came with equipment and floor plans could be had for $1,750 in rural communities with a population of less than 10,000 people.

This undated photo features the original Spudnuts donut store on Apache Street in Farmington.

Jolley later sold it to the Stowell brothers' dad in 1979, launching the siblings into the donut business as kids.
"We've been all three of us doing this for years," Scott Stowell said.

"We all worked there," Kyle Stowell said. "My dad used to have routes for kids to deliver donuts around the neighborhood. It taught us all how to work. I knew when I was a little kid that I'd own my own business."

When the national franchise business went bankrupt in the middle 1980s, Stowell said his dad kept his shop open, bought the trademark rights and continued frying doughnuts using his own recipes until finally selling the business around 1995.

Today, the brothers' father, Kevin Stowell, works as a gas plant manager is Kensington, Ohio. He said he plans to return to help get the donut shop up and running later this summer.

"I did it for 15 years, worked a lot of hours," Kevin Stowell said. "It's a lot of work, the bakery business, but it's a good product. You can't beat them. They're the best donut around. There's nothing like them. They melt in your mouth."

Kevin Stowell ended up selling the original store back to the Jolley family in 1995. It was leased out for a few years and then went away completely.
Kyle Stowell said when he was a high school student, he'd take orders from classmates, go pick up their orders, bring them back and collect the money. That's how he got his start as an entrepreneur.

The Spudnuts company was relaunched in recent years and renamed Johnny O's Spudnuts with only one store and a flour mill in Utah. The Stowells' shop will be the second in the U.S. to operate under the new name with the original recipe, Kyle Stowell said.

And because the Stowells are not franchisees of the Spudnuts brand, they said they can design the new donut shop any way they like.

The brothers settled on a contemporary version of the old donut shop model — plenty of tables for seating, couches to kick back on, free wi-fi and an espresso bar. The shop will also serve fast food like hamburgers, hot dogs, steak fingers, taquitos and french fries with another secret house recipe — a special fry sauce, the brothers said.

The store will showcase the making of the donuts. Customers will be able to peer through a window just inside the entry and watch armies of doughy rings move in uniform configuration along a conveyor belt from the start to the finish of the cooking process.

State Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, owns a debt collection agency next door. Sharer, who managed a Taco Bell before he launched his political career in 2001, owns the building and was so tickled over the prospect of having fresh donuts next door that he cut 3,000 square feet out of his debt collection agency's offices to make room for the Stowells' donut shop.

"When (Kyle) said he wanted to put a business in, I asked him what it was," Sharer said as he inspected the construction on Friday to make sure the business would meet its Aug. 1 target opening date. "He said it'd be donuts. I asked him, 'Is it Spudnuts?' And he said, 'You bet.' It was a done deal right there."

The logo for Johnny O's Spudnuts store, which will open Aug. 1 in Farmington, is displayed.

Scott Stowell said the urge to restart the family business represents a connection to his past and the community he grew up in.

"It's part of our life. We grew up like this," Scott Stowell said. "If you went to school with us, (you know) we smelled like donuts."

Kyle Stowell said the venture is part nostalgia and partly fills a need. He said the Dunkin Donuts on Main Street and area grocery store bakeries are Spudnuts' only competition.

"It's a dream of ours," he said. "All of us wanted to open it again. Our dad thought we were crazy. But we want people to know, especially those who remember it from before. It's the same old recipe with the same old people running it. We're all just a little older."

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.


More info

What: Johnny O's Spudnuts

Where: 509 E. 20th St., Suite B, in Farmington

Hours: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday

More info: Send email to doughboysinvest@gmail.com