The Spudnut Shop

Spudnut

Spudnut

If you ask someone who has never been to El Dorado what they think about a Spudnut, you will likely get a quizzical look and a remark something like this, “I’ve never heard of a Spudnut -what in the world is it?”  But ask anyone who has been to The Spudnut Shop in this south central Arkansas town that same question, and probably their response will be, “There is no better doughnut in the world, and if they weren’t so fattening, I’d eat them all the time!” For most of us who have lived in El Dorado but have moved away; when we return to visit family or friends, chances are one of the places we want to visit again will be this small locally owned franchise on West Faulkner Street.

Spudnuts were introduced to the citizens of El Dorado in the late 1940’s by the Stringfellow family. Daisy Stringfellow and her husband Howard were travelling out west and happened to have one of these unusually named doughnuts in a newly opened franchise and decided that this might be a good investment for them. The initial franchise was begun in 1940 in Salt Lake City, Utah by the Pelton brothers. They had discovered that by using  potato flour as a base ingredient, a very tasty doughnut with an almost addictive quality could be made. A franchise could be purchased early on from the Pelton brothers for $1500 which included equipment and floor plans. After the Stringfellow’s purchased the franchise, Daisy managed the shop since Howard was employed at Monsanto Chemical Company and did not have the time necessary to get a new business started. They hired one employee, Bud McCann who became the on-site operating manager after he learned the formula from the Pelton’s and was able to make the Spudnuts quickly and efficiently. The original store was on Oak Street adjacent to Rumph Mortuary and within 2 blocks of the new Barton Junior High School and approximately 6 blocks from El Dorado High School on Northwest Avenue. In those days there was an open campus policy for lunch and large numbers of students chose The Spudnut Shop for a quick-lunch of a hamburger, fries, and a Coke with a Spudnut or two for dessert. Business was booming from the beginning since there was not a another doughnut shop in town.

Bud began his preparation each day at 3 AM of the hundreds of dozens of doughnuts needed for that day. By the time the shop opened at 5 AM he would have enough Spudnuts for the early morning customers and then had to continue cutting, frying, glazing and drying many more dozens throughout the day. The store was open every day except Sunday. I once asked Mr. Stringfellow approximately how many Spudnuts he sold each day to which he replied, “When the refineries in El Dorado were at full capacity back in the 1950’s, we made and sold 1200 dozen Spudnuts one Saturday!” When one considers that one man was responsible for making them all, that is a staggering number.

In the early 1970’s, Howard retired from Monsanto and could give more time to the business operation. His function seemed to be one of interacting with the regular customers and the newer ones who might stop in for a breakfast treat or perhaps a quick, light lunch. I always enjoyed talking with Mr. Stringfellow (I never called him Howard), because he was never at a loss for words and usually had a good story from the past. He and my favorite Uncle Dick (Smith) were good friends, and I could usually get him to tell me something about Uncle Dick that I could use to tease him when I visited with him at H & V Sporting Goods.

The Stringfellow’s sold the business to their daughter and son in law, Nancy and William Varnell in the mid-1970’s and the two of them managed the business until only recently. Bud McCann continued working another 10 years or so until his health caused him to finally retire. Although I’m sure the Spudnuts tasted exactly the same, it just didn’t seem right not seeing Bud over in the corner working his magic.

Whenever Cathy and I had friends visit from out-of-town we would frequently get a dozen Spudnuts for at least one breakfast we enjoyed with our company. During the decades of the 80’s and 90’s when we were making annual mission trips to Eastern Europe, we invited a number of pastors and wives to El Dorado and some of them came to have surgical procedures done. Each one of them got to enjoy a few Spudnuts during their visit and recovery. One couple, Costel and Mia Oglice who are Romanians and missionaries for Kay Arthur’s Ministry in Eastern Europe, always asked when they would see us in Budapest or Salzburg, “Did you bring with you any “Spad-a- nuts?!”

There is another Spudnut store in Magnolia which is only 30 miles away and these two may be the only remaining Spudnut stores in the South if not in the country. I have never visited the Magnolia store, nor have I desired doing that. The one in El Dorado has always been special, and in spite of the fact that now I might eat only one or two Spudnuts in an entire year, I still love them and they are a part of my happy memories of growing up in El Dorado.

Dr. John

Note: Some of the historical information for this remembrance was obtained from articles written by Joan Hershberger, staff writer for The El Dorado News Times.

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23 thoughts on “The Spudnut Shop

  1. I haven’t had a Spudnut in over 10 years and trust me, I could REALLY use one or two.. lol I miss them they are DIVINE…. I reside in South Carolina now and Krispy Kream has NOTHING on a SPUDNUT !!!.. just sayin ~

    Sure wished they shipped.. lol

    • I too live in South Carolina and was thinking exactly the same thing — would love to have an express shipment to my home in South Carolina. I still long for Spudnuts! It has been many years since I was back in El Dorado and I would LOVE to have a dozen or so!
      Mary Lou Spears Mann
      Greer, South Carolina

    • I too live in South Carolina and still have Spudnut cravings. It has been over 20 years since I was in El Dorado. Sure wish they could do an Express Delivery of a dozen or 2 Spudnuts. They would be DELISH!

  2. SPUDNUT TEMPLE
    And I looked upon the town of oil, and I saw a temple on a hill. Inside the temple were people from all races and lands. All had come to take communion at the white box. Inside the box were 12 prizes, each perfect and pure. The heat rose from the sides of the box, I opened it and smelled its sweetness, I lowered my head down and pressed my lips against a prize. It burned away all evil and left me pure and innocent. Surely goodness shall follow. My eyes looked up to see a roundish man with a hat upon his outstretched arm. He beckoned me come! Come join us at the Spudnut Shoppe.

  3. Too bad you never tried the Magnolia Spudnut Shop because they had more varieties than Eldorado’s Shop and the Caramel Spudnuts were out of this world.

  4. We are addicted to spudnuts! They cannot be found up north. One of our favorite memories of visiting relatives in sout Arkansas!

  5. Benji Stringfellow, now deceased, was son of Howard and Daisy Stringfellow. Benji, my great uncle, never owned the spudbut shoppe rather became a dentist. This information is inaccurate because the man you call “Benji” is Howard Madison Stringfellow, husband to Daisy and father to Nancy (my grandmother) and Loren Benjiman Stringfellow.

    • Thanks for the correction on your great grandfather’s first name, Skyler. As I mentioned in the blog, I never called him by his first name but always called him Mr. Stringfellow. I was a young boy when I first started going to the Spudnut Shop, and even after I became a doctor in the town, I had so much respect for him I called him “Mr.” I got the incorrect first name from an article written by Joan Hershberger in the South Arkansas Historical Journal, Volume 5, page 26 (www.southark.edu./index). Your great uncle Benji was 3 years ahead of me in high school, and I knew he became a dentist and practiced in Fort Smith. I appreciate your correction of my error and I have made the changes. I hope you enjoyed the blog on that historical landmark in El Dorado started by your family and you have an occasional spudnut whenever you might visit El Dorado.

  6. I saw a link to the Spudnut article via Facebook. As little kids in the 60’s, we visited my uncle & aunt, Jess (dentist) and Marylou Ferguson in El Dorado. I still remember the special trips to the Spudnut Shop. And was recently asking if anyone had heard of other Spudnut shops. Thanks for the article.

  7. One of my fondest memories of the Spudnut Shop was having a “bunking” party at my house on North Washington and leaving there at midnight and walking to the bowling alley (which was where the police station is now) and bowling from 1 to 5 am for $1 then walking around the corner to the Spudnut Shop for Spudnut Ala Modes! In those days, you could walk the streets in the middle of the night without fear!

  8. Lots of memories in that piece. Not only of spudnuts, but of H and V Sporting Goods and Uncle Dick Smith. I duck hunted with him a few times in the mid 60’s with Barry Lee and Andy. Wonderful, wonderful memories. Take care, Dr John.

    • Thanks Matt. I need to write a blog story on the “kids of Melrose Street.” What a wonderful neighborhood to grow up. When I would come home from med. school, I always loved going to Berry Lee and LaNell’s house and play with their kids along with the Wadsworth and Cyphers’ kids. There was always plenty of action on that street! Thanks for reading the blog.

  9. I was raised in union county.worked at colonial bakery for a few years, then moved to Texas and been to most of the world; but I have never seen another doughnut shop that can compare to the one in el dorado.the best of the best.
    I yearn so much for a spudnut but my health keeps me from traveling.
    So if anyone is coming through mt
    Enterprise TX. Please bring me a dozen and you will be blessed beyond most you have ever experienced.you can pm me or call my niece at mason plumbing.wendy is her name. God Bless you all. Uumm!!!

  10. When did Spudnut Shop in Magnolia ark open ? I have horribly missed the caramel twisters but they are re opening soon probably by June 2016

  11. My husband, Gary, and I were born in El Dorado and grew up there. We married and lived There up until July of 2015 when we relocated to NWA. Although it’s beautiful up here, we Both greatly miss the famed Spudnuts like those in El Dorado!

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