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A different kind of dough: Bank transforms to doughnut shop in Ironton

Mac Daddy's Donut Garage in Ironton opened its drive thru in February and opened their lobby a few weeks ago.

Donut store owner poses behind the counter for a photo.
Shari Cowart, owner of Mac Daddy's Donut Garage, smiles behind the counter, Wednesday, July 6, 2022.
Sara Guymon / Brainerd Dispatch
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IRONTON — Ironton residents used to walk into this building and leave with one type of dough. Now they walk in and spend that kind in order to get another type of dough — and this one comes with sprinkles.

Shari Cowart, co-owner of Mac Daddy’s Donut Garage, looked at a few places and knew that she wanted a building with a drive-thru for her bakery. A lot of the buildings she and her husband looked at needed much work, but the old Wells Fargo bank building just seemed perfect for them.

“We looked and looked and a lot of the buildings needed a lot of work but we wanted the drive-thru ability,” said Cowart. “And this (place) just seemed perfect when we finally came across it. A different kind of dough basically.”

Mac Daddy’s Donut Garage opened its drive-thru in February of this year, but Shari and Mark Cowart have owned the building since 2018. They also just opened up their lobby to the public a few weeks ago.

Cowart spent a lot of time in a doughnut shop growing up. A close family friend ran one and since there wasn’t a shop like it in the area, Cowart had the idea to start her business.

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“There's never been a specific donut store in this area,” said Cowart. “There's been bakeries, but not (that) just do doughnuts and that's it. So I always thought there was a need (for one) and my folks retired up here five years ago and we just decided that we were gonna see if it worked.”

Cowart grew up in Iowa, but she spent every summer since she was a 1-year-old in central Minnesota on the lake. Her grandparents had a cabin on a lake near Deerwood and her parents have a cabin on that same lake.

“It's just been like a family thing,” said Cowart. “My dad spent every summer when he's a little kid on that same lake. So this area is just kind of like home or second home.”

Before moving to central Minnesota in 2019, Cowart was living in Iowa. She owned hair salons for a living and has always had an entrepreneur’s mindset.

“I just have that entrepreneur’s spirit,” said Cowart. “I've always liked being in charge of my playground.”

Since they opened, the response from the community has been very positive and the demand for doughnuts is hard to keep up with on some days, Cowart said.

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Rows of donuts line the shelves of Mac Daddy's Donut Garage, Wednesday, July 6, 2022.
Sara Guymon / Brainerd Dispatch

“Our aftermarket, which is a maple long john with bacon, caramel and chocolate drizzle — that we could sell about as fast as we can make them until they run out,” Cowart said.

Another popular pick for doughnut lovers have been their cronuts. They are a mixture of a croissant and a doughnut.

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Cowart and her small group of workers have no problem coming up with new flavors or ideas. Plus, customers are always suggesting doughnut ideas they would like to see in the shop.

“We have a lot of customers that say ‘Hey, I have an idea for a doughnut,’” said Cowart. “We had a customer say the other day they wanted the cronuts filled and we hadn't done that. They wanted it with chocolate Bavarian and it was actually really good. If we can (make it), we will.”

Cowart has three full-time employees who work with her and one part-timer. Her son is one of those full-time employees. When she first opened her business, her son was still living in Iowa and working a construction job. However, after visiting and helping out in the store, he knew he wanted to help out with his parents' business.

“My son actually came up to surprise me for my birthday, which was Feb. 19, and he didn't even know that I was opening on the 18th,” Cowart said. “He ended up jumping in and loving it. (He) gave up his concrete job and moved up here to be a part of this business.”

The amount of doughnuts varies from day to day depending on the day of the week and if there are any orders scheduled. They will also run out of doughnuts on some of their busier days, like on the weekends.

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Garage doors from a 1905 mansion on Lake Minnetonka decorate the lobby of Mac Daddy's Donut Garage, Wednesday, July 6, 2022.
Sara Guymon / Brainerd Dispatch

There are also days when they don’t sell all of their doughnuts. Since they do not sell day-old doughnuts, they often have to find other places to bring the leftovers after they close for the day.

“I usually find places to donate (leftovers),” said Cowart. “I take him around to local businesses. We take them to the retirement homes and the hospital. We just find different places, but then I have some farmers that want them for their chickens and pigs, too.”

The lobby opened a few weeks ago, but Cowart still has a lot of ideas for decorations. The store has an automotive theme to the design to match the store’s name — which was inspired by the five automotive dealerships that were in Ironton — and there are some notable items to look for.

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One of the most eye-catching decorative pieces is located to the left of the cash register. A large 1905 garage door, which used to belong to a mansion on Lake Minnetonka, is securely placed against the wall. The new owners of the mansion were going to tear down the garage and Cowart knew that she needed the doors.

“So they are so heavy, but I saw them and I had to have them,” Cowart said. “We got there and the guys were like yeah, you load them. It was just my husband and I — and I laugh because I don't think he talked to me on the way home but I was so happy you know that I got these doors.”

Another decoration that has a lot of meaning is the Honda motorbike behind the counter. The bike belonged to Cowart’s husband during childhood and was severely beat up. However, it found a new home in their shop after being restored by a friend.

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Mark Cowart's childhood Honda motorbike was restored and now decorates Mac Daddy's Donut Garage, Wednesday, July 6, 2022.
Sara Guymon / Brainerd Dispatch
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And it’s a business that has been interested in opening a store in Baxter for years

“I feel like we're creating a Mac Daddy’s family with our customers,” Cowart said. “I mean they are just awesome to us and they give us ideas, inspiration, love and support. It's been awesome. We just can't thank the community enough for as good as they have been to us.”

Mac Daddy’s Donut Garage may be found at 221 Fourth St., in Ironton.

SARA GUYMON, Brainerd Dispatch, staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5851 or sara.guymon@brainerddispatch.com . Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/Sara_Guymon .

Related Topics: LOCAL BUSINESS
Sara Guymon recently joined the Brainerd Dispatch as a staff writer.
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