We visited Mojo Donut for National Donut Day and learned how they do what they do the way they do it best.
Video by: Mario Restrepo/The New Tropic
For ultimate reader enjoyment, play this song while reading the story.
“I thought donuts would be easy,” admitted Shawn Neifield, the founder of Pembroke Pines-based Mojo Donuts.
Then he fell silent, reflecting on his naïveté. In that quiet moment, Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger began trickling out of the speakers in the quaint suburban donut shop, amping him up as he described the struggle.
Rising up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
The song played on, his retelling growing in intensity with it.
Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive
They’re the most difficult single-item product to produce, he explained.
First you’ve got to make the fresh dough every night. Bakers come into the store at 10 p.m. to mix it. Then they cut each individual doughnut and let them proof before they’re fried and glazed. All of that happens while the rest of the world is sleeping.
“A single doughnut takes about five hours to produce,” he explains, adding emphatically, “And we never sell day-old donuts.”
Opening a doughnut shop, it turns out, takes a Rocky-esque determination.
It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight
Four years ago, Shawn and Shelly Neifield wanted to open up a gourmet doughnut store in South Florida. Shawn, who had long history of working in the restaurant industry, sensed a void and thought there was a big opportunity here. But there was one problem: they’d never made a doughnut in their lives.
They contacted Voodoo Donuts, a wildly successful gourmet doughnut store originating in Portland, Oregon. But Voodoo didn’t want anything to do with them.
“Thanks for feeling our mojo,” they wrote to him in an email, declining his request to open a franchise.
His friends urged him to keep with it. “You’ve always done everything yourself, you can do this yourself too,” they said.
So he set out for a space to open up his own store. He named it Mojo Donut.
Shawn and Shelly found their perfect spot in Broward. The rent was cheap, the location was just off of the Turnpike, and the storefront was visible from the road.
Their doors opened Feb. 1, 2013. Today, business is booming, with customers driving from as far north as West Palm Beach and as far south as Homestead to get their doughnut fix.
Mojo boasts 45 original flavors, and there are always more coming, most of which are created by the Neifield’s themselves.
“Sometimes I get inspiration from a song, like I just made one called the lime and coconut, because I was listening to that song,” he said. “We had a key lime pie donut that wasn’t quite right … we made a new base and added chocolate and a coconut spread.”
Another was inspired by local lifestyle show, Deco Drive. The show was filming a story about the new shop, and Neifield asked each of the anchors what their favorite ingredients were.
What resulted was the “Deco Delight,” a hole-less donut, stuffed with banana cream and dipped either in milk or white chocolate and pressed with Corn Flakes along the rim. Finally, it’s topped with caramel, strawberries, and blueberries. Yea, that’s all in one doughnut.
Pretty soon we’ll have a Mojo in our backyard. Shawn and Shelly are opening in Westchester in July, the first of four locations, hopefully. This time, they’re adding fried chicken, according to the new store’s owner Jimmy Piedrahita.
“You know chicken and waffles? We’ll we’re going to do chicken and donuts,” Piedrahita said, smirking.
With the keys in hand and the build out almost done, the trio only foresees one challenge in opening in Miami — making sure their name is pronounced right.
“It’s MoJo, not MoHo,” Piedrahita laughed.