Duck Donuts Comes to Kansas City
For those who enjoy a getaway to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the Duck Donuts experience has been a must since the first store opened there in 2006.
With the exception of a few locations in California and Texas, Ryan and Katie McNeil opened one of the first Duck Donuts west of the Mississippi on June 30 in Ranch Mart North, at 3630 W. 95thSt. in Leawood. And the response has been overwhelming. The people who swear by Duck Donuts are proud of it, and they definitely love to let you know about it. Some customers have actually worn their Duck Donuts gear when they stop by.
“I didn’t realize how many people vacationed in the Outer Banks that are from this area,” Ryan McNeil says. “And then when we started introducing the brand via social media out of the gate, people were just coming out of the woodwork to say we go to the Outer Banks and we go to Duck Donuts. They were just over the moon. They couldn’t believe they were going to have one here in town.”
As a big line formed on opening day, Ryan was mingling with one such superfan who was sporting his Duck, North Carolina shirt.
“He was like, ‘Man, my family has a house in Duck. We go to the original store all the time. Actually, part of my family is at that other store right now.’ And he made me FaceTime with his family from the KC store to the original flagship to talk to them,” Ryan says. “It was great.”
Founder Russ DiGilio lamented that there were no doughnut shops in the Outer Banks until he decided to do something about it with made-to-order doughnuts that have been hugely popular with locals and vacationers alike.
Headquartered in Pennsylvania, the business has since grown to nearly 70 locations, one of them in Charlotte, where Ryan and Katie were introduced to Duck Donuts in 2015 by Katie’s older brother, Nate. With their son, Will, and Nate’s kids in tow, Ryan and Katie waited in a line that stretched out the door. Once inside, at the Chipotle-esque observation area where you can see your doughnut get made, all the kids were glued to the glass in rapt attention at the activity in front of them.
“We got through the line, the donuts were amazing, and we pretty much got home and we were like, this would kill it [in Kansas City]. How cool is this?” Katie recalls. “Then we learned it was a franchise, and then we researched about it. And three years later, we’re here.”
You start with a warm vanilla cake doughnut, and what you do with it next is your choice. If you want to keep it simple with a cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar, or glazed doughnut, that’s perfectly fine. Just be mindful that the fun really kicks in when you choose from icings, toppings and drizzles that you can mix and match infinitely. Some of the toppings include graham crackers, Oreo crumbles, and bacon bits.
Yes, bacon. And darned if it doesn’t work.
The doughnut with maple icing topped with bacon has become a real crowd pleaser. The McNeils are also getting a lot of good response with the breakfast sandwich: bacon, egg, and cheese or sausage, egg, and cheese on a doughnut. “We had a guy yesterday get a dozen of them for his office,” Ryan says.
Every day begins at 6:30 a.m., and besides Monday and Tuesday when they close at 3 p.m., they’re open until 7 p.m. Even on an outrageously hot Friday afternoon, there’s a steady crowd.
“You have a lot of afternoon snacks, you have a lot of after-dinner treats, and you have people coming in at 5 or 5:30,” Katie says.
Ranch Mart has been undergoing a revival in recent years, and it just seemed right to open Kansas City’s first Duck Donuts in a space next to Cosentino’s Price Chopper.
“It’s got a nice neighborhood vibe to it. The thing about this brand is it can live in a lot of different locales, and it does. But it just fits with the nice neighborhood donut shop feel,” Ryan says. “We always at the beginning envisioned it in Ranch Mart. We live nearby, and we like what’s about to happen with Ranch Mart, what they’re doing to it now, and their plans for it. It turned out that after a lot of searching and Duck corporate coming in and looking at the city, it made the most sense. Ranch Mart’s been a great partner to us, and they’re excited to have us.”
The McNeils, both Blue Valley North High School graduates from the Class of 2000, had no prior experience in this industry. Ryan has been an account director for DEG, a marketing agency in Overland Park, for six years, while Katie is an esthetician who also teaches an indoor spin class at Mojo Cycling Studio in The Plaza. These jobs are a lot to juggle with Duck Donuts, but it’s been more manageable than they envisioned. “I was expecting it to be a lot harder,” Katie says, “but we have a great manager, we have a great assistant manager, and we have a great staff. We’ve always been so positive and uplifting about this whole thing.”
They have also gotten sound advice from friends and family along the way. Katie’s father and stepmother are part of the ownership group, and some of the best input on getting the store up and running came from friend and BVN classmate Kevin Clayton, the general manager at Stock Hill in Kansas City.
Plans are already in the works to open two more Duck Donuts in Kansas City: one next year and another in two years. It’s yet to be determined where those will be, but for the time being, folks are flocking to the lone Duck Donuts location just weeks after it opened.
“Be careful of the obsession,” Ryan says, “because we have rabid Duck Donuts fans and because it is so good.”