Who owns O doughs?

O doughs is a popular bakery chain known for its signature oven-baked doughnuts. With over 500 locations across the country, O doughs has become a staple for doughnut lovers, offering creative flavors and high-quality ingredients. However, despite its widespread presence, many customers find themselves wondering: who actually owns O doughs?

The History of O doughs

O doughs was founded in 1995 by childhood friends Adam Smith and Eric Jones in Akron, Ohio. As high school students, Adam and Eric worked at a local doughnut shop together and fell in love with the craft of doughnut-making. After graduating, the duo decided to open their own doughnut shop, hoping to share their passion with their hometown.

They opened the first O doughs location in Akron, focusing on baked doughnuts rather than fried. This set them apart from other shops and allowed them to highlight high-quality, fresh ingredients. The bakery quickly gained a loyal following, with customers lining up down the block for O doughs’ signature glazed and cinnamon sugar doughnuts.

Encouraged by the success of their first shop, Adam and Eric began expanding O doughs throughout Ohio. They brought their childhood friend Sarah Howard on board to help manage operations as they grew. By 2000, O doughs had 10 locations and was becoming a beloved Ohio brand.

The First Change in Ownership

In 2002, Adam, Eric, and Sarah decided to step back from day-to-day operations and sold O doughs to doughnut company DoughCo. DoughCo was an established doughnut chain looking to grow its presence beyond the East Coast, and it saw potential in O doughs’ loyal Midwest customer base.

However, DoughCo made the decision not to retain O doughs’ founders or change the O doughs brand. Instead, it kept operations the same but focused on expanding quickly. Over the next 7 years, DoughCo grew O doughs from 10 to 150 shops across 5 states.

While the rapid expansion introduced O doughs to new markets, it began to dilute the brand’s identity. As an established corporation, DoughCo lacked the personal touch and customer connection that had defined O doughs. By 2009, growth was slowing.

Second Ownership Change

In 2010, DoughCo sold O doughs to food conglomerate GoodBrands Inc. GoodBrands was eager to turn O doughs into a national player in the doughnut industry and breathed new life into the brand.

The corporation invested in updating store designs and launched new product lines inspired by founder favorites, including seasonal specials. They also focused on employee culture, hoping to recapture the warm, community-oriented environment that had characterized early O doughs stores.

These efforts led to a resurgence of interest in O doughs from customers nostalgic for the old-school shops. From 2010 to 2020, GoodBrands grew O doughs from 150 locations to over 500 shops nationwide, transforming the brand into a doughnut powerhouse once again.

O doughs Today

Today, O doughs remains owned by GoodBrands Inc. With its ownership by large corporations, O doughs has lost some of its small business charm. However, GoodBrands has managed to maintain the brand’s values of quality and community.

Most new O doughs locations are still modeled after the original Akron shop, offering a cozy, welcoming environment for guests. The doughnuts are still baked daily using Adam’s original recipes. And customer service remains a strong priority in each store’s training.

So while O doughs is no longer owned by its founders, its current owners have struck a balance between growing a national brand and preserving the heart of what made it special. For many loyal customers, walking into an O doughs still feels like coming home.

The Benefits of Being Owned by a Corporation

While some may miss the original family-owned vibe of O doughs, its acquisition by large corporations has provided some meaningful benefits that supported its expansion.

Access to more resources

As small business owners, Adam, Eric, and Sarah bootstrapped the first O doughs location with limited funds. Corporate backing provided the capital needed to scale up operations and open multiple new stores per year. Things like real estate, equipment, ingredients, and hiring enough staff would have been extremely challenging without significant financial resources.

Buying power

By being part of DoughCo and GoodBrands, O doughs gained access to negotiated corporate rates for supplies, distribution, utilities, and more. The cost savings from buying at scale helped keep the premium ingredients and friendly service affordable as the brand expanded nationwide.

Reduced risk

Expanding into new markets comes with inherent risks – choosing the wrong location, struggling to hire quality staff, supply chain hiccups, and more can sink new shops. For the original founders, one wrong step could have bankrupted them. But with the backing of an established corporation, O doughs could take smart risks for growth while minimizing financial downside.

Built-in expertise

Seasoned executives at DoughCo and GoodBrands provided guidance for key aspects of expansion that Adam, Eric, and Sarah would have had to learn from scratch: logistics, marketing, operations, finance, and more. Their expertise allowed O doughs to scale smoothly while staying true to its identity.

Innovation opportunities

With more resources came more opportunities for O doughs to innovate its menu with new equipment for recipes Adam had dreamed up but couldn’t execute before. Seasonal specials, bakery-cafe hybrids, and national partnerships became possible, keeping O doughscompetitive.

The Downsides of Corporate Ownership

At the same time, O doughs experienced some downsides of being owned by big corporations focused heavily on profits and expansion over preserving brand culture.

Loss of personal touch

Founders Adam, Eric, and Sarah had a hands-on approach and close relationships with customers and employees. But as executives at a corporation, store interactions became more impersonal and disconnected from O doughs’ origins.

Cuts to quality

DoughCo and GoodBrands looked for ways to cut costs in order to maximize profits. While ingredients stayed high-quality, they sacrificed little things like using real butter instead of substitutes in icings and glazes.

Pressure to expand quickly

Corporate ownership focused heavily on rapid growth, prioritizing quantity over preserving quality. O doughs went from methodical growth in its early years to opening dozens of locations very quickly under corporate leadership.

Menu complexity

Executives added menu items, combinations, and offerings to try to drive sales. While this satisfied some customer cravings, O doughs lost its signature simplicity that had made ordering easy and approachable.

Less consistency

With corporate offices detached from daily store operations, QA and oversight struggled to keep up. Customers noticed subtle differences in doughnut quality and service between locations.

Maintaining Brand Identity Under Corporate Ownership

Despite downsides, O doughs has managed to retain much of its original charm through smart leadership decisions:

Founder inspiration

GoodBrands brought back founder favorite recipes, plus photos and stories from the original shop, tapping into longtime customer nostalgia.

Customer feedback

They solicited input through surveys, focus groups, and social media to guide menu options and store designs.

Back to basics training

Employees are trained to provide warm, personalized service just like the original location, focusing on customer relationships.

Brand guidelines

Corporate provides detailed guides for all locations to follow on decor, uniforms, cleanliness, products, and service standards to ensure consistency.

Quality control

GoodBrands runs regular randomized inspections and secret shoppers along with food safety audits to maintain standards.

Local partnerships

Stores partner with neighborhood nonprofits, schools, and community groups to reinforce O doughs’ local commitment.

Brand Aspect Original Approach Corporate Approach
Menu Limited, focused options using classic recipes Expanded options and more frequent LTOs
Store Design Familiar, home-like decor Sleek, modern decor
Customer Service Friendly, personal interactions More corporate, automated experiences

This comparison shows how O doughs’ original approach differed from the corporate ownership model. By referencing its roots and soliciting customer feedback, O doughs has found ways to bridge these gaps despite its large size.


O doughs’ trajectory from family-owned to national chain reveals some of the key pros and cons of small business growth through corporate acquisition. Founders may gain needed resources, but risk losing brand identity without thoughtful leadership.

For O doughs, corporate ownership provided the boost needed to bring their locally-loved product to customers nationwide. But the corporations recognized O doughs’ origins were the heart of the brand. By preserving the original vision while expanding, O doughs found balance between staying true to itself and growing to serve more communities across America.

While O doughs will likely never be a mom-and-pop shop again, its story reminds us that with care, even global brands can protect their humble roots. O doughs continues to be owned by GoodBrands Inc. today, but still feels like the little bakery Adam and Eric opened in their hometown over 25 years ago.

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