5 Star Stories: Gibson’s Donuts -- the donut shop that never sleeps

Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 12:04 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis is known for its music and barbecue but, when you look up Memphis breakfast on Trip Advisor, one of the first listings you’ll see is about donuts -- Gibson’s Donuts to be exact.

So in this 5 Star Story, “it’s time to make the donuts” and get the “d-o-double gizzle” on the Memphis icon that makes us proud to call the Mid-South home.

”There’s a place in Memphis called Gibson’s Donuts where the donuts are so good they’ll make you go nuts!”

Those are the starting lines of a rap-turned children’s book created by Britton DeWeese entitled, “The Donut Shop That Never Sleeps.”

Gibson’s Donuts is nestled on a portion of Mt. Moriah Road, a portion of which is now renamed Don DeWeese Boulevard, and the heavenly smell greets you in the parking lot.

Don DeWeese bought the donut shop. which originally opened in 1967 at that same location. from the Gibson family in 1996.

”And we have made it what it is, which is now the largest, one owner, one location donut shop in the United States of America,” DeWeese said proudly.

Gibson’s runs on donuts and traditions like, no franchises and according to DeWeese and his general manager son, Britton -- keep it in the family.

”I get to work for my dad, and one day my kids will get work for me,” Britton said, while expounding on another tradition at Gibson’s Donuts. “You know, it’s gotten a lot busier but as far as the recipe, the donuts, the way we do things like nothing has really changed, you know, donut-wise, in the last 50 years.”

Customers come from across the Mid-South, and sometimes the country, for a sampling of the tender, fluffy fried pastries which come in a wide variety of cake and yeast donuts, fritters, donut holes, cinnamon rolls and eclairs.

DeWeese said the key is all about how you touch the dough, Gibson’s lets their donuts rise three times.

And, although the original equipment in the kitchen requires occasional welding and repairs, DeWeese said it’s also a tradition that makes Gibson’s unique and claims some can’t be found anywhere else within a thousand miles radius.

“And one of the keys, Kym, is we have an old antique glazer that’s 50 years old. You cannot buy that glazer anywhere. And we glaze ours ... a very light glaze ... And we glaze it both sides so it keeps the moisture in the donut,” he said.

Britton also gives credit to the bakers in the kitchen who go “old school” with each delectable morsel.

“Most donuts you eat now aren’t touched by human hands until it gets put in a box. The machines make ‘em and they go down conveyor belts under waterfalls of frosting, and you just can’t make food - machines can’t make food the way people can,” said Britton. “So, I guess the best tradition that we have that we’ve kept alive is that we do everything by hand, from scratch ... we put love into it.”

But, there is one tradition at Gibson’s that has changed -- the shop is no longer open to customers 24 hours a day.

”So, we had a little incident that happened in here and our cooks were a little scared to work in here from midnight. So, we now close at midnight and we open back up at 5 o’clock in the morning -- nothing good happens after midnight,” DeWeese explained.

However, to keep up with demand, when the doors are closed to customers, the kitchen staff is usually hard at work.

”Because we sell that much,” said DeWeese.

Probably the most important tradition at Gibson’s Donuts is the commitment to customer service -- tossing warm, fresh donuts to first-timers when they come into the shop or just making people feel welcome.

”I don’t care if they live in Germantown, Frayser, Mississippi, wherever ... we treat everybody that comes in the door the same ... We don’t care if they’re Republican, Democrat ... no politics talk in here,” DeWeese articulated.

As Britton put it, “We don’t have customers, we have guests. We try to greet every person that comes through that door like they were coming through the front door of our house. It’s just a happy fun place to be.”

And as traditions go, there’s one that’s likely to continue for generations to come.

“This is a kid’s store, don’t hurry ‘em up. Let ‘em learn to order for themselves,” said DeWeese.

“Makes me proud about what I do and why I do it,” added Britton.

Gibson’s Donuts has been featured on TV about eight different times, while Alton Brown -- a television personality, food show presenter, chef and author -- goes to Gibson’s whenever he’s in town and once called it one of two of his favorite things to eat on the TV series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”

As for the children’s book mentioned that was written by Britton, you can pick up your own copy at Gibson’s Donuts, as well as a book written by Stephen Douglas Williford that’s titled, “The Donut Man: Don DeWeese.”

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