The Detour of a Lifetime

By Lisa Dawson

Say what you want about doughnuts, but there’s no denying they have a quirky personality. First, you can spell them two different ways, and neither is wrong: donuts or doughnuts. Second, you can bake them into almost any shape and flavor them however you’d like, and then there are toppings (that’s a whole separate topic). There’s just no denying the eclectic nature of doughnuts, starting with bending simple spelling rules and completing with an anything-goes attitude. From unique flavors to bright colors and fun-sounding names, doughnuts are the food that doesn’t take itself too seriously but has some serious die-hard fans.

Many of those doughnut fans can be found on any given morning at Detour Doughnuts and Coffee in Frisco. Chef and owner Jinny Cho understands the love language of food and mixes daily creativity with decades of baking experience to create some of the best doughnuts Dallas Ft. Worth (DFW) has to offer. Aside from exotic and creative flavors like Fig and Mascarpone and Crème Brulé, she’s also experimenting with flavor combinations that break the open-centered round mold with combinations like Lavender and Turmeric and Blueberry Goat Cheese.

When you enter Detour, it’s obvious doughnuts are the star of the show, but there’s a feeling of happiness that’s powerful enough to make you want to hang out. When asked about how doughnuts make people feel, Cho effortlessly explains how doughnuts can elevate a mood. “Everyone should feel like a sprinkle doughnut,” she says. All one has to do is read the resounding reviews of their doughnuts online, with hundreds of happy customers singing the store’s praises. Detour’s doughnuts have been praised by D Magazine and also named one of the ten best doughnuts in DFW by Eater Dallas.

“Doughnuts are America’s favorite breakfast,” says Cho on a recent afternoon in her store. When talking about her business, Cho is clearly passionate about doughnuts, customers, and the community. She’s equal parts savvy businessperson and like a friend you met to catch up with over coffee. Taking some time to sit and relax in the cheerful, eclectic store reminds you you’re there to experience much more than a tasty doughnut; you’re having a ‘sprinkle doughnut’ type of day.

Cho’s roots in entrepreneurship and doughnuts run deep. Her family emigrated from Korea, and her parents owned and operated doughnut shops around the metroplex for many years. She helped run their stores as a kid growing up and learned early on how small businesses work. “My family ran everything,” she says. Cho notes she found inspiration for Detour Doughnuts while traveling and seeing different doughnut stores in places like London. “Making doughnuts is very labor intensive,” says Cho. “We get started at midnight every day, and the process usually takes eight hours.” With her team of six full and part-time employees, Detour makes approximately 2,500 doughnuts each week. She says when it comes to operating her store, her parents were intentional with their advice: never say no and remain open 365 days a year.

Their advice has been invaluable to Cho, who says running a business in Frisco takes tenacity and constant recommitment. Cho says being very active on social media is one of the secrets to her store’s success. “There’s no foot traffic in Frisco, so we focus on a rotating menu of new flavors to keep our customers coming back,” she says. “We try to create products that people get excited about. The store itself has a vibe that is inviting. We call ourselves a radically traditional doughnut shop, and that really says everything you need to know about my approach. I’m big on comfort, and I’m big on curiosity, and every doughnut we make is a reflection of those two things. We’ve been really lucky that our customers trust us enough that we will never lead them too far astray. They can get their traditional glazed doughnut and try out a Mango Sticky Rice.”

As a full-time working mom, Cho says balancing running a business and raising a child is something she leans into for support. When asked how she juggles it all, she laughs and says it depends on the day of the week. “I’m really lucky to have a strong network of people that I can lean on for advice, occasional childcare, and midnight meltdowns. My mom has been in this business for as long as I can remember, and our conversations are invaluable. My boyfriend, Shawn, tours quite a lot as a blues musician, but when he’s in town, he’s always happy to help out.”

Detour doesn’t stop with doughnuts as they offer fresh empanadas by Del Campo Empanadas and pigs in a blanket, which offer savory alternatives to their deliciously sweet doughnuts. Detour takes their coffee seriously, too. Espressos and specialty coffees are made on a La Marzocco, and the beans come from local roaster Oak Cliff Coffee. With a vibrant menu of flavors from sweet to savory, premium coffee, and a hip vibe, there’s no better place to be than Detour when the doughnut and coffee mood strikes.

A recent day in August was a particularly exciting day for the Detour team when they had a triple celebration. The theme was back to school, and the store celebrated by giving away 500 doughnuts to Frisco ISD students and teachers and celebrated their fifth anniversary. It’s also the day the proclamation was signed by city leaders and Mayor Jeff Cheney to designate August 9th Detour Doughnuts Day.

When Cho reflects on the last five years, she notes that opening a business and surviving the pandemic was no small feat, especially in the food industry. She says accepting orders online via the store’s website and their social media following has helped them through tough times, like last summer’s heat wave. “During extreme heat like that, it’s a lot of ask of people to come out to the store,” she explains. She says in the future, the store may partner with local delivery services to make their products even more accessible.

“I’m all about pushing boundaries,” says Cho. “Five years ago, people were not used to fancy and elegant doughnuts, but now here we are. Our tagline is: ‘Take A Detour.’ It’s about taking a different path. A lot of people get comfortable and try to avoid what scares them. I like to jump into the fear.”

Connecting with customers and the community at large is important to Cho, who believes in being active within different organizations and giving back to the city of Frisco and beyond. In 2021, when Asian hate crimes were on the rise during the pandemic, Cho and her team began making doughnuts with the hashtag #StopAsianHate decorated on them. All the proceeds from those doughnut sales went to support the Asian American community through the AAPI Community Fund, which serves AAPI-serving non-profits across the U.S. “That campaign happened years ago, and people are still talking about it,” says Cho. She said recently that a young woman from a local Frisco high school interviewed her for their radio program. The young woman mentioned the campaign and asked Cho questions about it. “I realized the impact that had on so many people. In the end, it had the impact I was hoping it would, which is inspiring people to take care of each other.”

Looking forward, Cho says she is very happy with her retail business and is taking time to explore new ideas. “We are building our catering, events, and custom business right now. We’ve had a lot of fun doing events at Tory Burch, Omni PGA, and Stonebriar Country Club. I’d like to create more quality partnerships like these,” she says. “It’s been five years at this location, and we’ll be here for another five. It’s a lot to try and grow a business and I want to be careful about getting too big too fast. Right now, I’m looking for a sustainable happy balance between living life and doing what I love and running a business. I have some ideas for the next chapter,” she says.

The name Detour was very intentional for Cho, who says she thought a lot about the name when she was preparing to open her store. “Initially, I was going to call the store Knead Doughnuts, but I found out the name was taken. I was in a panic and I was driving on Preston Road and saw a detour sign. I thought about the alliteration of detour and doughnuts and how a detour reminded me that I had just graduated college with a biomedical engineering degree from UT Dallas, and I was going to take my life in a totally different direction.”

Embracing the unpredictable twists and turns of life and business just may be similar to a doughnut itself: it takes hard work, but the payoff at the end is sweet. As for the spelling, Cho said she always knew her doughnuts wouldn’t be the same if they were spelled d-o-n-u-t. “The ugh makes them taste better.”

Lisa Dawson is a freelance writer living in Frisco.

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