Two Charlottesville businesses that had been using the name Spudnuts when marketing and discussing their fried, glazed, potato-based donuts say they will no longer be using the word after they learned on Wednesday it was a trademarked name.
The Bradbury Cafe on the Downtown Mall and the Doshier’s Donuts food truck said they were both contacted Wednesday by the owner of the trademark after a story in The Daily Progress brought their products to his attention.
“I own the trademark, I own the recipes,” Keith Larsen of Utah, the founder of Johnny O’s Spudnuts, told The Daily Progress on Wednesday.
Larsen has two stores under the Johnny O’s umbrella, one in Logan, Utah, and another in Farmington, New Mexico.
He said he was not made aware that the Charlottesville cafe or food truck had been using the name Spudnuts until both businesses had already started selling the products.
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Larsen reached out to both businesses, and by all accounts, the matter was peacefully resolved.
“Had a lovely conversation with him,” Mark Hahn, president of the Bradbury Group and co-founder and president of Harvest Moon Catering, told The Daily Progress. “We will adjust and change our language and our marketing of the product.”
The Bradbury Cafe, which Harvest Moon operates, had been explicitly using the name Spudnuts in marketing material.
Hahn said that when his staff began experimenting with launching his own riff on the potato donut about a month ago, they had been operating under “the idea of Spudnut as a thing, not a trademark name.”
He said he never expected the donut to be so popular – 24 dozen have already been preordered this week – and he never expected the word Spudnut was legally protected.
Hahn’s doubts about the donut’s popularity may come as a surprise to some.
When the Spudnut Shop in Charlottesville closed roughly six years ago after nearly 50 years in operation, it was not because business had dropped off. The store, which used the name legally as part of a larger national franchise, was still distributing donuts to the crowds every day.
Owners Lori and Mike Fitzgerald said at the time they closed the business “to do something else.”
There was public mourning. Customers showed up en masse to get their hands on the last Spudnuts, an elegy was written by a local songwriter and the area’s delegate in the General Assembly argued something should be done to keep the doors open.
“So maybe we’re not surprised,” said Hahn, “but we weren’t fully prepared for the response.”
Shawn Doshier, who owns Doshier’s Donuts with his wife Kelly, said it was specifically because of how fond the public was of Charlottesville’s original Spudnut that they ventured to make their own version.
“It was all just kind of inspired by something that used to be very popular in the area,” Shawn Doshier told The Daily Progress.
He said he and his wife made a conscious effort not to advertise the products as Spudnuts.
“Honestly we haven’t been marketing them as Spudnuts,” he said. “We’re trying to constantly tell people we’re not part of the Spudnuts franchise. This is our own recipe.”
The Doshier’s Donuts website calls its potato-based donuts a “take on a long time favorite, the Potato Donut, or Spudnut.”
Doshier’s said they will be more cautious in the future about even making the comparison.
Hahn, meanwhile, said his team is already planning on finding a new name for its product.
“Spudnots? Potato rings with a hole? I do not know. We’ll have to take to social media and maybe have the community weigh in so they become truly unique to Charlottesville,” he said. “Spudnuts is a pretty apropos name. But maybe we can do spuddoughs.”
Hahn said that Larsen has offered to send his Spudnut mix to Charlottesville for the area’s bakers to sample. They may adopt the name Spudnut if they adopt the mix, Larsen said.
Hahn said he’s not that dedicated to the name to change the recipe.
“His is a mix and ours is a wet mash,” he said. “He is sending us a sample of his product to see if we’re interested in buying it, which I don’t think we are. We’ll just have to suffer through a side-by-side taste test.”
The Spudnuts name is disappearing from the Charlottesville area yet again, but it may not be forever, according to Larsen. He’s looking to expand the franchise.
“Hopefully, Spudnuts will be back in Charlottesville in a big way in the future,” Larsen said.
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