A Different Kind of Dough: A Bank Turned into a Donut Shop in Ironton – Brainerd Dispatch

IRONTON – The people of Ironton used to enter this building and leave with one kind of dough. Now they walk and spend that kind in order to get another kind of dough – the kind that comes with sprinkles.

Shari Cowart, co-owner of Mac Daddy’s Donut Garage, looked at a few places and knew she wanted a building with a car through her bakery. Many of the buildings she and her husband looked at needed a lot of work, but the old Wells Fargo Bank building seemed perfect to them.

“We looked and looked and a lot of the buildings needed a lot of work but we wanted to be able to drive by,” Cowart said. “And this (place) looked perfect when we finally got to it. Basically a different kind of dough.”

Mac Daddy’s Donut Garage opened its business in February of this year, but Shari and Mark Cowart have owned the building since 2018. They also opened their lobby to the public a few weeks ago.

Cowart spent a lot of time in a donut shop growing up. A close family friend ran one, and since there was no store like it in the area, Cowart had the idea to start her own business.

“There was no specific donut shop in this area,” Cowart said. “There were bakeries, but not (that) just make cakes and that’s it. So I always thought there was a need (for one) and my folks retired here five years ago and just decided we’d see if it worked.”

Cowart grew up in Iowa, but has been spending every summer since she was one year old in central Minnesota on the lake. Her grandparents had a cottage on a lake near Deerwood and her parents had a cottage on the same lake.

“It was just a family thing,” Cowart said. “My dad used to spend every summer when he was a little kid in the same lake. So this area is a bit like a home or a second home.”

Before moving to Central Minnesota in 2019, Cowart was living in Iowa. She owned hair salons for a living and always had the mindset of an entrepreneur.

“I just have an entrepreneurial spirit,” Cowart said. “I’ve always loved being in charge of my stadium.”

Cowart said that since they opened, the community’s response has been so positive that it’s hard to keep up with the demand for donuts some days.

Rows of donuts line the shelves of McDaddy’s Donut garage, Wednesday, July 6, 2022.

Sarah Jemon / Brainerd Dispatch

“We have an after-sales service, which is a tall maple with a drizzle of bacon, caramel, and chocolate — we can sell it as fast as we can while it runs out,” Cowart said.

Another popular choice for donut lovers is donuts. It’s a combination of croissants and donuts.

Cowart and her small group of workers have no problem coming up with new flavors or ideas. In addition, customers always suggest the donut ideas that they would like to see in the store.

“We have a lot of customers who say ‘Hey, I have an idea for a donut,’” Cowart said. “One customer told us the other day he wanted a waffle filling and we didn’t. They wanted it with Bavarian chocolate and it was really good. If we can (do it), we will.”

Cowart has three full-time employees working for her and one part-time. Her son is one of those full-time employees. When she first opened her business, her son was still living in Iowa and working a construction job. However, after visiting and helping out at the store, he knew he wanted to help with his parents’ business.

“My son actually came to surprise me for my birthday, which was February 19, and he didn’t even know I was going to open on the 18,” Cowart said. “He ended up jumping in and loving it. (He) gave up his concrete job and moved here to be a part of that business.”

The quantity of cakes varies from day to day depending on the day of the week and whether there are any orders scheduled. They will also run out of donuts on some of their busy days, such as weekends.

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Garage doors from a 1905 mansion on Lake Minnetonka decorate the lobby of Donut McDaddy’s garage, Wednesday, July 6, 2022.

Sarah Jemon / Brainerd Dispatch

There are also days when they don’t sell all the donuts. Since they don’t sell old donuts, they often have to look for other places to fetch leftovers after they are closed for the day.

“I usually find places to donate[the leftovers],” Cowart said. “I take it to the local stores. We take them to nursing homes and hospital. We just find different places, but then I have some farmers who want them for their chickens and pigs too.”

The lobby opened a few weeks ago, but Cowart still has plenty of ideas for decoration. The store has an automotive theme that matches the store’s name – inspired by the five car dealerships who were in Ironton – and there are some notable items to look out for.

One of the more eye-catching decorative pieces is to the left of the cash register. A large garage door from 1905, which once belonged to a mansion on Lake Minnetonka, is set securely against the wall. The mansion’s new owners were demolishing the garage and Cowart knew she needed the doors.

“So it’s pretty heavy, but I saw it and had to get it,” Cowart said. “We got there and the guys were like yeah, load them up. It was just me and my husband — and I laugh because I don’t think he talked to me on the way home, but I was so happy you know I got those doors.”

Another decoration that makes a lot of sense is the Honda motorcycle behind the table. The bike was owned by Cowart’s husband as a child and he was badly beaten. However, he found a new home in his shop after a friend had it restored.

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Mark Quart’s Honda motorcycle, which now adorns Donut McDaddy’s garage, has been restored, Wednesday, July 6, 2022.

Sarah Jemon / Brainerd Dispatch

“I feel like we’re creating the Mac Daddy family with our customers,” Cowart said. “I mean they are great to us and give us ideas, inspiration, love and support. It has been amazing. We cannot thank the community enough for what they have given us so well.”

Mac Daddy’s Donut Garage can be found at 221 Fourth Street, in Ironton.

SARA GUYMON, Brainerd Dispatch, Staff Clerk, can be reached at 218-855-5851 or

[email protected] Follow her on Twitter at

twitter.com/Sara_Guymon

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