‘Donut Joe’ finds success in Pelham

Published 6:24 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Richard Byrd, owner of Donut Joe's in Pelham, prepares an order at the restaurant near the intersection of Shelby County 52 and Lee Street. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

When Donut Joe’s owner Richard Byrd decided to open his business in the small building near the intersection of Shelby County 52, Lee Street and a trio of railroad tracks, he admittedly did so with some uncertainty.

Two years later, he has been having trouble figuring out where to park all the cars surrounding the business on Saturday mornings.

“I’m sure everybody was thinking ‘What is this crazy guy doing?’ when we opened,” Byrd said with a laugh. “All business is a risk. We just kind of rolled the dice on this one, and it has turned out great.”

After several businesses opened and closed in the small building in just a few years, Byrd “pretty much had to gut” the building and start from scratch.

“It was a pretty substantial investment,” he said. “But it is in a good, high-traffic area.”

Because Shelby County 52 serves as a major commuter route for those living in Pelham and Helena, most of the business’s first customers were people stopping in on their way to and from work.

But today, Byrd said the donut shop has gained a loyal following.

“People come from Pelham, Alabaster, Helena, Hoover, Trussville, Mountain Brook, everywhere,” Byrd said. “It’s not just drive-by business anymore. It’s like a destination place for people.”

By the time Donut Joe’s opens its doors at 6 a.m., its employees have been working for nearly four hours already.

“To do real donuts, you have to deal with dough. It’s got to rise before you can do anything with it, and there’s no way to rush that process,” Byrd said. “We make everything from scratch in the building.”

When the store does open, it sells everything from coffee to apple fritters to donuts topped with everything from Oreos to Fruit Loops. One of the restaurant’s newest offerings is its maple bacon donuts.

“Anything with bacon is fantastic,” Byrd said. “Some people say ‘Oh, gross,’ but most people who try it love it.”

Byrd said he is considering expanding the store’s hours, and possibly opening more franchises in different areas. Currently the business is open Monday-Friday from 6 a.m.-2 p.m., and on Saturdays from 6 a.m.-noon.

“We have been blessed for sure. The community has supported us from day one, and we want to let them know how grateful we are,” Byrd said.