Tres Shannon Interview
If you want to talk doughnuts, you better be talking Voodoo Doughnuts.
That’s right Voodoo Doughnuts.
They’re “the hottest” thing going right now in downtown Portland, Oregon.
They’re so “hot” that back on December 24th 2008, Portland’s Mayor Tom Potter with an approval vote from City Council decreed Voodoo Doughnut’s Portland Crème doughnut as the official doughnut of the city.
Now tell me that isn’t impressive!
Voodoo Doughnuts Co-Owner Tres Shannon spoke with us about his business.
Q – Tres, you and your business partner Ken “Cat Daddy” Pogson never made doughnuts before. Why did you two guys settle on the doughnut business?
A – Well, we were going to go in business and doing something together. We kind of realized bars and things we were thinking of doing that we had experience in – there were a lot of those. In Portland, as far as I can tell, there’s never been a doughnut shop in Downtown Portland. It was kind of an epiphany, maybe we should make doughnuts. So, we decided to make doughnuts and there’s a long back story with the Armenian Mafia, belly-dancing and a Rolling Stones cover band, but that goes on and on and on and on.
Q – So, you really don’t have any competition in the doughnut business in Portland?
A – Well, there are doughnut shops in Portland, but not any in Downtown Portland. There’s still only, I bet 6 doughnut shops in the metropolitan region.
Q – Some doughnut masters in Pico Rivera, California taught you two guys how to make doughnuts. How much did they charge you for that?
A – They didn’t charge us any money.
Q – You had two of Elvis’ Memphis Mafia guys rave about your doughnuts. How did Lamar Fike and Marty Lacker hear about you?
A – That’s true. They saw us on t.v. just talking about the doughnuts. We’ve been on many, many television shows. We were talking about the doughnuts and one of the names of the doughnuts is ‘Memphis Mafia’. I think they got a kick out of it and contacted us and said, ‘Hey, thanks for keeping the memory alive’. It was really satisfying for ‘Cat Daddy’ ‘cause he’s from Memphis. It was a real feather in his cap for sure.
Q – Brad Pitt ate one of your maple bars. What’s that?
A – It’s just a maple bar. A bar with maple on it. You’ve never heard of a maple bar?
Q – No, I haven’t.
A – Maybe they call it Long Johns or something. It’s a doughnut that has maple on it. Nothing spectacular, but its right when we were first just learning how to make doughnuts. When we went to Pico Rivera we would make 10 dozen doughnuts for our test doughnut in their test kitchen. We had all these boxes of doughnuts and we were driving around in a convertible in L.A. and ran into Brad Pitt. ‘Hey Brad Pitt, you want a Maple Bar’? He’s like, ‘Sure’. (Laughs).
Q – I watched Ken’s video online. His approach to selling doughnuts is like a used car salesman. Is that his background?
A – Oh, no not at all. We’re just both born salesman and that sort of makes it funny to talk about doughnuts like cars. I just happened to not be there that day but they guy who filmed it was our supply guy, the guy who pretty much gives us all of our product. He’s got a camera and kind of threw that together. Have you seen the fishing (video) too where we’re fishing?
Q – No I haven’t looked at that.
A – We’re fishing and picking up doughnuts. I think we’re the 9th most Google(d) site in all of the world, behind the Eiffel Tower, The White House, and the Pacific Ocean. In And Out Burger is ahead of us.
Q – I didn’t realize that. Well, the name of the business is kind of strange.
A – There’s a lot of O’s. They look like doughnuts.
Q – Was it hard to think of that name?
A – No. It took about 2 minutes.
Q – Who’s eating your doughnuts?
A – Everybody is. From the womb to the tomb, baby. People that were in their mother’s womb are now eating doughnuts that their of age. I just talked to a great-grandmother that comes up every year and gets herself an ‘Old Dirty Bastard’ (doughnut). (Laughs). She’s like 96 or something. So, I say plus everybody in-between.
Q – So, it’s not just the curiosity seekers. You have repeat, return customers.
A – Yeah. You have to have a good product and that’s what we’ve got.
Q – You sell your doughnuts for .95 cents a doughnut.
A – Everybody told us that’s crazy. And, we started at .85 cents a doughnut. They said nobody will pay .85 cents for a doughnut.
Q – People think Krispy Kreme doughnuts are expensive at $5.99 a dozen and you get a dozen glazed doughnuts for free.
A – That’s our cheapest doughnut. We have doughnuts that are $100,000. We haven’t’ had anybody buy one yet, but we have one that’s encrusted in diamonds and you get it in a keepsake box. We sell doughnuts for $5.95. That’s one doughnut.
Q – When did Voodoo Doughnuts open?
A – We’ve been open almost 8 years at Number One and our second location has been open almost 3 years. We just open up our 3rd location in Eugene, Oregon which has been open for about 7 months.
Q – Would you say your success has been based on your location? Advertising? Your product?
A – We haven’t spent a dime on advertising. (Laughs).
Q – So, it’s been strictly Word-of-Mouth then?
A – We’ve been Word-of-Mouth, from the Get-Go.
Q – That’s very impressive especially when you consider your in a big city like Portland.
A – Oh, yeah. Well, this is an internationally known business now too. It’s not just for Portland.
Q – You do not ship doughnuts.
A – Never ship doughnuts. Never will. We ship merchandise. We’ll be happy to sell you t-shirts or stickers. We can put those in the mail. We just never sell doughnuts through the mail. It isn’t fair to the doughnut.
Q – You also feature Vegan Doughnuts?
A – That’s correct. We’re one of the first who’s probably done it. It just doesn’t have egg or dairy, and obviously meat products in ‘em. We have a scratch recipe we do for a cake doughnut and then Bake mark who are the people at Pico Rivera, they actually came up with a Vegan recipe for more high volume, so we don’t have to make it form scratch. We do Vegan yeast doughnuts. Vegan chocolate cake and plain cake dougnuts. We have 3 different varieties.
Q – Your goal with Voodoo Doughnuts is what? To take it world-wide?
A – Yeah. I think so. World-wide domination seems like a pretty good idea without being too greedy and we’re still having fun at what we’re doing. The last thing I want to do is become like a Krispy Kreme.
Q – How would you maintain quality control if your business is spread out like that?
A – Well, we’re working on that right now in Eugene and we’re sitting around looking at markets in Texas and California. That’s always going to be a hurdle. I’m confident we’ll be able to handle it.
Official website: www.voodoodoughnut.com
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