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BYU alum brings potato doughnuts to Provo with new restaurant

By Harrison Epstein - | May 29, 2023

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

Josh Kunzler, owner of Spudnik Donuts, sits in his shop on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

On Provo’s Center Street, bathed in the glow of a yellow neon sign, sits the city’s newest sweets shop.

Featuring interplanetary decor and out-of-this-world flavor combinations, Spudnik Donuts uses a rotating weekly menu of six doughnuts, five that change and one near-fixture.

The doughnut-maker burst onto the culinary scene with a growing social media presence and occasional pop-up shops. On Wednesday, the store, 56 W. Center St, celebrated two months since its soft opening, just days after winning a fan favorite award during the annual Utah Dough Show.

What sets them apart from the standard doughnut, though, is in the name.

Spudnik Donuts incorporates potato flour into the dough, allowing for a more dense texture than your traditional airy dessert, according to owner Josh Kunzler. The potato, he said, is a “magical ingredient” for texture that won’t sneak into the taste.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

Donuts are displayed at Spudnik Donuts on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. On top are Blackberry Handheld Hunger Device, below are Minty Mouse The One-Eared Space Rodent.

“You’ve got great doughnuts here in Utah but they’re more your traditional doughnut shop. They’re open early in the morning and they just close when they sell out — which is usually about midday or early afternoon,” Kunzler said. “If no one else is doing the doughnut shop that I want, I guess I’ll have to do it.”

Spudnik also differs from most of their counterparts with their hours. The shop is open 4-10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 3-11 p.m. Fridays, 3 p.m. until midnight on Saturdays and is closed Sunday and Monday. The hours align closer with Kunzler’s vision of doughnut-loving culture in Oregon, where 24-hour shops are constantly refreshing their sale racks.

Kunzler first came to Provo in 2011 as a Brigham Young University freshman majoring in finance. After working briefly in the corporate world, the Oregon native was looking for a way to bring creativity into his work. He moved back to Provo, earned his Master of Business Administration from BYU last month and is bringing some of his home state’s culinary flair to Utah County.

“People are religious about doughnuts in Oregon. … In high school, if we were skipping class, or even after school, it was like, go hang out at the doughnut shop down the street,” Kunzler said.

He’s worked diligently with his team — his brother, who did all the graphic designs including the restaurant’s logo and the outer space/doughnut/animal mural on the inside wall, and their mother — to create a place that offers “something new, something cool, something original” for the people of Provo.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

A neon "Spudnik Donuts" sign hangs on the shop's wall on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

The restaurant’s location was also an active decision, not a matter of chance. Spudnik Donuts is subleasing the space, formerly Lotus Garden, from neighboring Heart & Seoul Karaoke. Being in a shared space has made the operation more financially manageable, in addition to getting directly in front of potential customers.

“Provo downtown is kind of a unique place within Utah. You don’t have a ton of places that are very walkable, but this particular block is very walkable,” he said.

In fact, the racks of for-sale baked goods are not displayed in the store, but facing out of the window and into Center Street. Plenty of Spudnik’s customers are people who couldn’t resist the sight of a doughnut topped with a Reese’s peanut butter cup, Oreo crumbles or pistachio cream icing, but others know why they’re walking through the doors.

Tiana Schwab and her husband, from Price, came into Provo on Wednesday for general shopping but made sure to stop into Spudnik. The eatery made its way onto the Schwabs’ to-do list after they first tried The Little Green Man at the Utah Dough Show.

“We came to go to Costco and get doughnuts — maybe doughnuts and then Costco,” Schwab said. “It was just so soft and the flavor of the pistachio was perfect. Me and my husband, after we ate it, we were like, ‘This is our favorite one.'”

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

Josh Kunzler, owner of Spudnik Donuts, helps customers in the shop on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

The different texture of the doughnuts, coming from the potato flour, helped them stand out to the Schwabs. VIP attendees of the Dough Show sampled the different baked goods almost four hours before the general ticket-buying public. By then, she said, some of the doughnuts were beginning to dry out — except for Spudnik’s.

“This will probably be a stop when we come up to Provo,” she said.

That praise from Schwab and recognition from the Dough Show attendees is a sign to Kunzler that he’s on the right path. He joked that the convention is “Christmas for everyone who loves doughnuts” and if that crowd enjoyed the potato doughnuts, anyone could — even if they don’t know what to expect.

“You kind of have to taste it to know the difference, but when you bite into it, you’ll be like, ‘OK, yeah, that’s different, but in a good way.’ It’s all the good things that you love about a doughnut,” Kunzler said.

Doughnuts are available to purchase as singles or in four-packs and six-packs. They also sell glazed doughnuts, called “Starglazers” and a host of prepackaged drinks — one of the most popular, to fit the theme, being the potato chocolate milk from Reed’s Dairy in Idaho. Over the two-month soft opening, Spudnik has offered 30-40 flavors, Kunzler estimates, with more making their way into the rotation each week. A formal grand opening is expected once the exterior is finished, he added.

For now, prospective customers just need to search for the shining yellow neon sign inside, glowing through the window.


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