Pink is definitely the "it" color — at least at the northeast corner of Broadway and Bayaud Avenue. That's where Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson and Tres Shannon are installing their second Denver outpost of the wildly successful Voodoo Doughnut, founded in Portland, Oregon, in 2003.
The two business partners have come a long way since the early days of doughnut mayhem, when they did everything themselves, from mixing the dough to fielding interviews from a growing number of TV shows and publications that helped spread the word about the irreverent shop.
"We didn't open up to be the crazy doughnut shop," Pogson recalls while overseeing the final touches of the new location that will open to the public on Sunday, June 16.
Instead, he and Shannon started out with traditional doughnut-shop favorites, such as blueberry cake doughnuts, apple fritters, raised doughnuts with simple glazes and buttermilk bars. "We did have a savory doughnut in mind, but the bacon doughnut came a little later," Pogson adds.
"And then we went nuts — at one point we had more than 100 flavors," the doughnut maker continues. But since then, and with expansion in mind, the production has been scaled back to about fifty different styles to make things more consistent for new shift managers — the "doughnut whisperers" of the organization — coming on board.
These days, folks outside of Portland who haven't witnessed Voodoo's sixteen-year rise often accuse the company of stealing ideas, since bacon can now be found as a topping in just about every bakery in the country. "My apologies for creating the bacon craze," Pogson jokes.
The first Voodoo Doughnut outside Portland opened at 1520 Colfax Avenue in December 2013, going 24/7 a month later. Shannon, who was born in Portland but grew up in Denver as a fan of the Broncos, explains that he and Pogson initially looked at Texas for expansion outside of Oregon. "We though Austin would be the place, but nobody there would talk to us," Shannon notes.
But as soon as Denver came up as a possibility, Shannon remembered what a beautiful city it was and how cool the neighborhoods and people were (Shannon attended the legendary U2 concert at Red Rocks in 1983, a sign of his Colorado cred). And when he and Pogson looked into coming here, they were warmly greeted by Anthony Graves (who had worked for Visit Denver and had just signed on at the Denver Office of Economic Development and Opportunity) and members of Denver City Council. That was all they needed to begin plans and sign a lease.
The new Voodoo Doughnut occupies the former home of Famous Pizza, which Gus Mavrocefalos ran for 45 years before new landlords bought the building and the pizza shop closed last August. Pogson says he understands why neighbors put the blame on an outside company for the closing of Famous Pizza (which had announced that it was closing before Voodoo signed on to the space), but he and Shannon also explain that they're committed to the community, in part by offering a quarterly charitable doughnut deal and also by hosting monthly fundraisers for neighborhood organizations.
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And they've also met Mavrocefalos, inviting him into the new shop for doughnuts and coffee earlier this week, presenting him with a Voodoo Doughnut "gold card" and, most important, showing him the new Gus Mavrocephalos/Famous Pizza black velvet painting hanging in a prominent location inside the shop. The painting is part of a series of black velvet portraits that grace all the Voodoo Doughnut locations, depicting guardian spirits for each spot: Pam Grier on Colfax, for example, as well as Isaac Hayes and Kenny Rogers in Portland and Conan O'Brien in Eugene.
"Whatever mojo we're putting into this store, his soul is firmly ensconced here," Pogson says of the former pizza parlor owner. (The Pam Grier portrait, which was stolen from the Colfax location last November, was quietly returned a couple of months later by a lawyer representing the culprit.)
Put some magic in your hole starting at 10 a.m. this Sunday, June 16, when Voodoo will launch the new shop at 98 South Broadway. Bring cash or plastic, since Voodoo Doughnut began accepting credit cards a few months ago for the first time in the company's history. There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony, free doughnuts for dads between 10 a.m. and midnight (since it's Father's Day), magicians, stilt walkers, balloon artists and even a (non-official) wedding. This branch will be open 24/7 right off the bat. "Starting at 10 a.m., we'll be open straight through to Thanksgiving," Pogson notes.
After the Broadway opening, Shannon and Pogson are setting their sights on further expansion of their doughnut empire (now at eight, with stores in Oregon, Colorado, Texas, Florida and California), including another metro Denver spot, continued growth in Portland, and a first Voodoo Doughnut for Houston.