John and Whitney Mixdorf, owners of South Shore Donut Co., saw a sweet regional need and developed the goods to fill it in their hometown of Clear Lake. But it took a little convincing.
“We had seen friends on Facebook talk about driving to Des Moines for fancy donuts,” Whitney said. “I searched on the Internet and said, ‘We can do that.’ And John said, ‘Absolutely not!’”
They already had their hands full. He worked full-time at Lake Auto, and she has a wedding planning and rental business from home with more than 3,600 items. Whitney had hip surgery last winter, and the couple has 2-year-old twin girls and an older daughter, 10.
“Everyone I talked to got tired of cupcakes. People started adding things to donuts and found it pretty good,” Whitney said. “I made a few donuts, and he said, ‘Maybe you’re onto something’.”
So she started a home-based bakery in February 2017, doing delivery orders in Clear Lake and Mason City.
“From the get-go, after she played with recipes, I said OK, thinking small in-house, and me just helping out when needed,” John said. “It got bigger and bigger, until l I felt I was almost working two full-time jobs.”
They purchased a food trailer for taking donuts to local events and very quickly outgrew their home kitchen.
“We were up all night baking what we could,” Whitney said. “When the orders took off, it was just impossible.”
Before taking a vacation in August, they decided to make an offer on a small building at 1205 S. Shore Drive, formerly Tinker’s Reef. Freshening up the interior with a lakeside cottage look and outfitting the commercial kitchen for baking, they opened South Shore Donut Co. in October.
“It’s doing great, going very well,” said John, who now works full-time alongside his wife. “On several days, we’ve completely sold out of everything. I feel bad turning people away.”
Gourmet baked cake donuts with buttercreme toppings and glazes are their specialty, made from scratch in regular or mini versions. Popular flavor varieties include Birthday Cake, a buttercreme flavor plastered with sprinkles, “super popular with the kids” according to John. Brown-Eyed Girl is a chocolate donut topped with caramel buttercreme frosting and big chunks of brownie, sprinkled with sea salt.
Raised and glazed donuts, long johns, and bismarks start with a pre-made mix but are baked and dipped in homemade glazes right at the shop. The Mixdorfs call them “50 percent homemade, 100 percent delicious!”
They also cater wedding receptions and events with specialty donuts. Flavors vary weekly in the shop.
Whitney develops her own recipes, but said John is learning fast.
“I’ve become a buttercreme connoisseur. I think I’ve come up with good donut ideas,” he added.
They’ve also started offering a small lunch menu of homemade food.
“We’re getting rave reviews about it,” Whitney said. “It’s centered around the ‘Mixwich’ - a 6-inch hoagie hollowed out, toasted from the inside, and stuffed with fillings. For instance, the Cuban is shredded pork, chopped pickles, and ham. Everything is portable, easily taken to go.”
The lunch menu includes soups and their secret recipe chicken salad, also available by the pint. South Shore Donut Co. merchandise, including T-shirts and mugs, is for sale.
The Mixdorfs come from a food business family, as Whitney’s parents Scott and Bonnie Amosson run the Clear Lake VFW restaurant.
“What sets us apart is our entire little family down here,” Whitney said. “Our twins Caroline and Cora are door greeters a lot of the time and wave bye-bye when customers leave. Our oldest daughter (Kinsey Anderegg) runs the cash register on weekends. That’s what makes it fun and kind of a no-brainer for John to switch careers and come work with me.”
John generally gets to the bakery by 3:30 a.m. to start work.
“A lot depends on pre-orders. I try to have the case full at 7 a.m. when we open.”
Whitney arrives with the kids about 6:45 a.m.
“When people smile and say they love our donuts, we get excited about it and that makes it a lot easier,” he said. “We’ve got pretty loyal customers. Some I know like certain donuts, so I’ll set aside two or three because they come in at least once a week. That always brings a smile to our faces.”