‘It’s time.’ Spudnut Shop owner calling it quits after 53 sweet years
Nothing will change at The Spudnut Shop as owners Val and Douglas Driver prepare to sell the Tri-Cities’ truly iconic business.
“It’s time,” said Val Driver, who has spent 53 of her 69 years at Spudnut, which was established in 1948 by her father and uncle.
“I’m 69. Maybe I’ll travel,” she said.
Spudnut marked its 75 anniversary on March 4. Driver signed papers to sell on March 23.
The deal to the unnamed buyers includes the business and the building it occupies at Uptown Shopping Center.
She described the future owners as a pair of “Richland guys” who grew up in the Tri-Cities, love Spudnuts and plan to keep it just the way it is.
“Just the way it is” is a compact bakery where Spudnuts are made with potato flour at the counter, coffee flows freely, generations of Tri-Cities sip and eat at its red booths and stacks of Spudnut-filled boxes wait for customers to pick them up at the door.
Driver said she will be around to help — if she’s needed.
The deal won’t close for several months as the buyers work to secure Small Business Administration financing.
Driver said the sale involves a cash buyout of the business and a contract to sell its building, which is also home to a barber shop and beauty shop.
Venting to a friend
The Drivers never put Spudnut on the market, even though there was no one in their family to take it over as they contemplated moving on.
Driver said her two stepdaughters are professionals, as are her brother’s adult children. She’d always anticipated retiring after 50 years and got serious about two years ago after she vented about a particularly challenging day to a friend.
The friend had a friend who was interested. Driver met with him and was taken by the enthusiasm he and his partner brought to the business.
“We just felt comfortable with everything,” she said. “These two guys are so gung ho.”
Spudnut Shop has long been a favorite of Tri-Citians. But it’s drawn plenty of attention from outside the area too.
The Spudnut Shop was featured on the Travel Channel and the Food Network sometime around 2008. Fifteen years later, the features still drive customers to its doors.
It was, Driver said, the best advertising she never bought.
In 2018, Travelocity named Spudnut the best “doughnut” in Washington, using a term Driver resists.
Don’t use the ‘d’ word
When a visitor mistakenly said “doughnut, she corrected them.
“Spudnut,” she said with a determined smile. She elaborates on the doughnut-Spudnut matter on the menu:
“Spudnuts are different than doughnuts. For one thing they’re made from potato flour and for another they just plain taste better.”
While she’s willing to help out, Driver said she and her husband have a place in Arizona they want to visit and other retirement goals, including embracing a fitness routine.
“I’ve been married to this place my whole life,” she said.
Driver’s father, Barlow Ghirado, and uncle, Jerry Bell, opened The Spudnut Shop in 1948 at the Richand Wye after paying $50 to purchase the franchise and 100 sacks of Spudnut flour.
It began as a wholesale business but moved to Uptown in 1950 and became a community fixture.
Richland was one of the first Spudnut shops. The brand launched in Salt Lake City in 1946 and peaked in the 1950s with more than 500 shops.
The parent went out of business, but Richland is one of nearly three dozen or so that kept going.
While the sale is still several months from closing, Driver said she gave the new owners a taste of the work involved when she recently reordered a pallet of Spudnut boxes from PCA at Wallula. The pallets are delivered to Pepsi, where she collects them in her pickup truck.
She made her buyers accompany her on the most recent box run.
Spudnut goes through 5 1/2 pallets representing more than 14,000 boxes every 2 1/2 months.
Keeping up with boxes is one part of running the shop.
Driver said her day typically begins at 11 p.m. and peaks in the morning when customers begin pouring through the door. Spudnut boasts a 4 a.m. opening.
It looks like a license to print money, but rest assured, it is not, she said.
“It’s not a gold mine if you don’t work it,” she said.
If you go: The Spudnut Shop is at 228 Williams Blvd., Richland.