This famous donut shop in Alabama sells sweets every day

We live in a golden age of gold fried dough. Today, most donut lovers have access to consistent if somewhat “prim” national chains and independent stores that offer designer donuts, maple-bacon and cranberry-pistachio creations made with organic flour (which cost about $4 each).

But in the middle of this sugar-covered spectrum, between “big donuts” and fancy foods, you can sit down at places like Shelley’s Donuts in Montgomery.

From her shop on the edge of a mall, Shelley Dow has been capturing the capital with the cakes she’s been making since 2007.

The circular, glazed, vanilla-cream icing and rainbow-glazed desserts that fill their glass cases are a staple, but they’re beloved, at least among those lucky enough to get to the store before about 9-9:30 a.m., the time window in which products usually sell out” Chile” in it.

Those who arrive after the cakes disappear each day leave with clear signs of disappointment. They pull out into the parking lot, see the “Sold Out” sign, hang their heads, and drive back. A few desperate souls get out of their car, and look inside (in case the sign is somehow from the past?

The delicacies at Shelley’s Donuts are made fresh and sell quickly. (Jennifer Cornegay/Alabama News Center)

Those who got their hands on Shelley’s Donuts were likely to have arrived as early as 6 a.m.; They open at 5am and whether they are walking away happy or empty-handed, they all come for what many claim are the best donuts in town.

“I always get the donut holes; they’re the best thing ever, the best I’ve ever had, honestly,” says client Anthony Cornett. I love the breakfast sandwiches too. (Shelley’s also serves kolaches, croissants filled with eggs, and a selection of meats and cheeses.) They do a great job with everything. This is the only place I’ve come to now.”

“They’re the best in town. Big and fresh. Like regular donuts on stimulants,” says Ashley Stubbs, echoing Cornette and naming her favorite as cinnamon sugar, topped with warm spices and just the right sprinkle of sweetness.

Loyal fans like apple muffins to mother’s apple pie and describe the chocolate-frosted muffins as rich without over-saccharin.

Flavor is only half the equation; Shelley’s Donuts are also revered for their texture. That’s what first got for Greg Hendrix, a regular for nine years.

“They are very thin,” he says. “That’s what I love.”

Dao was not shy about sharing her secret of smoothness and volume, stating that creating a one-of-a-kind feel is intentional.

“I want my cupcakes to be a little different from the others,” she says. “I add a little yeast and a little water to the dough.”

Shelley Dao likes the cakes to be bigger and softer than what you find in other stores. (Jennifer Cornegay/Alabama News Center)

The amount of water and temperature depends on the season.

“I judge the weather. In hot summer, I only add cold water.

According to Dao, another ingredient in her recipe for success is her friendly banter with customers.

“I love chatting with my clients and joking with them; they are like family,” she says.

And after 15 years of making such coveted scones, she has a lot of regulars. Many, like Stubbs, leave with multiple boxes, plus one more thing: Shelley added a surprising bag of donut holes to Stubbs’ order of forty-dozen glasses, saying “These are just for you!” Small pieces are appreciated. “I got the glass to take to the Elmore County Courthouse staff, but I’ll keep the holes for me for sure!” Stubbs says.

Her request may seem like a lot but not to the dao. “It’s not a big deal,” she says. “Many get seven dozen, ten dozen.” Glazed is the most popular, and Friday is usually the busiest day of the week. “Then, I don’t even have time to stand still,” she says.

But as a one-woman operation, her schedule is often hectic and long. Dow goes through about 100 pounds of flour a day, arriving at 12 a.m. and mixing, cutting, frying, and freezing overnight and pre-dawn hours to make the dessert their customers crave.

The shop officially closes at noon, but often closes hours earlier, once the last donut has been sold. Then it was time to tackle the chores and other “tasks” of her two children still living at home. (There are two other adults alone.) “I usually go to bed around 3:30 p.m. or so,” she says.

One of the factors that drove Dow is its history. Originally from Cambodia, she and her parents and siblings narrowly survived the authoritarian rule of Pol Pot and the Cambodian genocide in the late 1970s.

“I was 12, and we came to Thailand, then to the United States, to Houston, Texas, in 1980,” she says.

Dow learned the donut trade, and traveled for hours to another city in Texas to study under the supervision of his cousins ​​who opened a shop and found success. In 2005, she came to Montgomery as a single mother, where her sister actually lives and also opened a donut shop called G&S Donuts with her husband. She worked with them for about a year, then opened Shelley’s in 2007, outfitting her building and perfecting her donut recipe on her own.

Dow describes herself as a survivor and draws strength from the struggles of her past. However, she does not dwell on it. Fresh every day, starting with a fresh donut.

“People don’t believe me, but I eat one of my donuts, usually a glazed and maybe a donut hole, every day,” she says. “I taste it, and it’s good, and it makes me happy.”

Walking outside in the morning and seeing the sleeping faces sparkling with anticipation makes you smile too.

“It’s hard work, but every day I get my cakes in the bags and look at them, and they look good,” says Dow. “Then, at five in the morning, I open the door, I see customers rushing in, and they are so happy to have my cake. It makes me happier. That’s why I’m doing this.”


Shelley Dao bakes them fresh daily at Shelley’s Donuts in Montgomery. (Jennifer Cornegay/Alabama News Center)

Chili’s Donut

65 Federal Drive, Montgomery, Alabama

2444-264 (334)

Open daily, 5 a.m. to noon (or until stocks run out)

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