It was nearly a month ago when an anonymous user on the Charlottesville subreddit sounded the alarm. They said something that many people thought they would never hear again: “Spudnuts are back!”
Fans of the fried, glazed, potato-based doughnuts rejoiced. But those who have been praying for the return of the original Charlottesville Spudnut Shop might be disappointed.
The Belmont institution that sat on Avon Street for nearly 50 years before closing at the end of 2016 has not reopened.
Instead, two new businesses have stepped in to fill the hole.
The Bradbury Cafe on the Downtown Mall and Doshier’s Donuts, a food truck that makes rounds throughout Central Virginia, are now both advertising their own spudnuts.
Neither has any connection to the former franchise.
And both have claimed their products are a reproduction of the original and not the same. But that may not matter, legally speaking. Spudnuts have been a trademark of a company called Johnny O’s Holdings LLC for years, according to legal documents.
Johnny O’s, which has locations in Utah and New Mexico, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Progress on Tuesday.
“I am in no way trying to replace or recreate the original spudnuts,” Jason Mckown, pastry chef at the Bradbury, told The Daily Progress.
The Bradbury has partnered with locally based Harvest Moon Catering to make its spudnuts, he said.
“Our [spudnut] is a potato doughnut that I make from fresh Yukon gold mashed potatoes,” Mckown said. “The difference with our spudnut and the Spudnut franchise was that they would get a mix to use. … They don’t make that anymore.”
Food truck operators Shawn and Kelly Doshier are both Charlottesville natives who met while working at another Charlottesville staple: Bodo’s Bagels. Shawn Doshier, who worked at Bodo’s for more than 11 years, said the Spudnut Shop inspired him and his wife to start their own food business. But no two recipes are alike, he said.
“Everything we [make] is a potato flour doughnut, they have all-purpose flour in them as well,” Shawn Doshier told The Daily Progress. “It’s a very similar recipe to Spudnuts. There are some differences, of course, because it’s no fun taking somebody else’s product. This is something that took a while to actually bring together while finishing the recipe.”
Mckown said he began perfecting his spudnut recipe at the Bradbury about a month ago. Since then, the doughnuts have garnered an “explosion of interest” from the Charlottesville community, he said.
It comes as little surprise.
When the Spudnut Shop in Charlottesville closed roughly six years ago, it was not because business had dropped off. The store was doing well, owners Lori and Mike Fitzgerald said at the time.
Once part of a roughly 300-strong national chain, the Charlottesville franchise was one of the last Spudnuts in operation on the East Coast when it closed. Lori Fitzgerald inherited the business from her father Richard Wingfield, who had opened the shop in 1969 with his wife Fay.
Lori Fitzgerald told news outlets in 2016, when she and her husband decided to close the shop, that business was still healthy.
“Sometimes you feel like it’s time to do something else,” she told C-ville Weekly.
Lori and Mike Fitzgerald could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
For those nostalgic for the days of spudnut past and those who simply crave something sweet, the Bradbury Cafe and Doshier’s food truck are here to help.
Doshier’s has been parked at the Point Church in Charlottesville for the past three weekends and will return on the first Sunday of February.
The Bradbury sells its spudnuts at its location downtown throughout the week – or until it sells out. As of Tuesday, the Bradbury spudnut supply was already sold out, according to posts on social media.