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January 29, 2016

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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
updated daily
to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry. 

The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

Chef Patrick is Back in the Kitchen - This Time a REAL One as Tampa's New Doughnut King!

This morning I popped into a new doughnut shop in our home town - Tampa, Florida,  but this wasn't just any doughnut shop - the Mini Doughnut Factory was a dessert experience unlike anything I've seen before - and it was created by none other than domain industry veteran Patrick Ruddell and his wife Zezura

As regular readers will remember, Patrick was always making waves - both  figuratively with his attention grabbing Chef Patrick blog and literally by staging the first domain conferences ever held on a cruise ship - DNCruise 1 in 2010 and DNCruise 2 in 2011. 

You may also recall that the serial entrepreneur came out of the real world real estate business. When the real estate market crashed he gravitated to online real estate - domains - and had a nice run with them (and continues to do so as time allows). Then when real world real estate rebounded he jumped back in to take advantage of the new market conditions and is once again  busy buying, fixing up and flipping houses. 

However, that wasn't enough for Patrick. Having gone through that crash he decided this time he was going to diversify before the next downturn. After doing a lot of research he determined a  doughnut shop would fit the bill - it is an affordable treat that everyone loves so they tend to keep customers coming regardless of the economic weather. 

Above: Entrance to the Mini Doughnut Factory (MDF) 
on South Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa, Florida.

Below: MDF Founders Patrick & Zezura Ruddell onboard DNCruise 1 - the first domain conference held on a cruise ship that they hosted in October 2010.

Now here is a very interesting part of the story. I told you MDF was unlike any doughnut shop I've ever seen - and Patrick credits legendary domain investor and Uniregistry Founder Frank Schilling for providing the idea that started him down a path that led to a completely re-imagined doughnut shop. 

Patrick had originally planned to serve regular full-size doughnuts and Frank happened to own a  domain name he wanted for the project. Patrick didn't end up buying the name but in the course of their talks Frank told him he should look into mini doughnuts instead of regular ones as they were becoming very popular in Canada (where Frank hails from, though he is now based on Grand Cayman). Patrick looked into them and decided that was the way to go - but he added a major new twist to the spartan mini doughnuts served north of the border (often little more that doughnut holes). He and Zezura would make them with a wide variety of fantastic toppings that no one could resist. They opened the shop November 15, 2015 (barely 10 weeks ago) and had an immediate hit on their hands. 

Above: I went to the MDF late in the morning on purpose, figuring the early morning coffee and doughnut rush would be over and Patrick, Zexura and I would have plenty of time to talk. I was shocked to walk in and see the tables that line the walls all full and a long line at the cash register (that never went away) with Patrick behind it.

Below: This shot of a box of freshly made MDF doughnuts will explain better than any words I can come up with why people are jamming the new Tampa shop every hour it is open. No one has anything like this and people took countless boxes home with them in the hour I was there.

Above: (left to right): MDF team member Lisa with co-owners Zezura and Patrick Ruddell getting boxes of mini-doughnuts ready for customers to take home.

Above: These mini-donuts are decadently rich so I split an order of six with fellow domainer Dimitar Tashev (from SuperDomains.eu) who went to MDF with me (a stop we made en route to a previously scheduled luncheon today). 

At right: Dimitar digs in! He is from Bulgaria but went to design school in Tampa so he was back here to see old friends and visit me after we had met for the first time at NamesCon in Las Vegas earlier this month. Dimitar agreed with me that the mini-donuts were out of this world and nothing like he has seen anywhere else in his frequent travels.

Below: MDF has a full and varied menu - making it a quandary for this customer to decide which of the dozens of intriguing possibilities she should choose - they all look so good! 

The MDF menu has 14 different "favorite" toppings at the top but customers can jump off from there and create any combination they want, making the options essentially unlimited. There is also a wide variety of coffee and drinks and for those who just can't get enough of that doughnut flavor there is even a doughnut milk shake!

Above: Things were so busy at the Mini Doughnut Factory this morning this selfie snapped by Dimitar was the only shot we had a chance to get of us with Patrick and Zezura before they had to get back to their battle stations. That's a good problem to have!

Below: It is clear to me that there are blue skies ahead for MDF. Local mainstream reporters have been all over the new business (check out this video from the Tampa Bay Business Journal) which is driving even more traffic through their doors. It is also clear this is a very scalable model that could result in the MDF brand eventually reaching from shore to shore. Zezura told me she has never worked so hard in her life (after just watching her for an hour I was exhausted!). However, from what I saw today that hard work is going to pay off in a very big way.

(Posted January 29, 2016) 

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