CEDAR FALLS — Janelle Wilks admittedly wasn’t a doughnut fanatic. But that was before the business owner stepped into a Hurts Donut Company location in Coralville. That’s when she “fell in love” with Hurts, both as a food and as a brand.
“I mean, they’re so yummy,” Wilks said. “From the time I left there, I started researching Hurts Donuts.”
Wilks, who recently moved her Main Streets Sweets shop to a bigger downtown Cedar Falls location, thought a Hurts — already in Coralville as well as West Des Moines — could do well in the Cedar Valley. So, following a visit to Hurts Donuts headquarters in Springfield, Missouri, Wilks and her husband, Scott, made the decision to bring a Hurts franchise to an as-yet undisclosed location in Cedar Falls.
“Having already started a new business in Cedar Falls and going through all the bumps in the road and figuring out how to navigate, I really can appreciate a strong brand and how they were able to do that,” Wilks said.
“They” are Kas and Tim Clegg, the wife-and-husband duo behind Hurts Donuts, which began in 2013 in Springfield, Missouri, and has grown to 22 franchises in 10 mostly Midwestern states with another eight in the works, “the fastest-growing business in southwest Missouri,” said Kas Clegg.
The business differentiates itself by its always-open hours — “25 hours a day, eight days a week,” according to Clegg — and its variety, with 70 kinds of doughnuts on offer. Plus, Hurts has specialty items like sausage-and-gravy-stuffed bismarcks, sausage kolaches and doughnut milkshakes.
“Any of the doughnuts in the case, we will make it into a milkshake for you — and the doughnut is the lid,” Clegg said.
Hurts doesn’t advertise in the traditional sense, said Clegg, preferring word-of-mouth and Facebook posts engineered to attract attention — like the Saturday night post that first announced a Hurts will be coming to Cedar Falls, which immediately got hundreds of shares.
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Neither Clegg nor Wilks would say where the Cedar Falls store would be, noting the rollout will include a “scavenger hunt” to find it, with the first 100 people to find the building getting — what else? — free doughnuts.
They’ll also sell a Hurts “wearable coupon” shirt, allowing customers who wear it in the store to use it to buy one, get one free doughnut. People wearing the shirt on Hurts’ opening day in Cedar Falls get a “fast pass” to the front of the line. And the company does round-the-clock, in-house delivery in repurposed ambulances, or “emergency donut vehicles,” Clegg said.
Wilks said she was “excited” to see the results of the first Facebook post, which garnered her page nearly 7,000 likes and counting as of Monday, just two days later.
“She’s so brilliant, marketing-wise,” Wilts said of Clegg. “They’ve got this cleverness and this wit you don’t see in most branding.”
What the company saves in traditional advertising is filled with charitable giving, said Clegg. She and her husband delivered clothing and presents to 61 children on Christmas Day and encourage franchisees to do the same. Wilks said giving back was one of the first things company executives mentioned during their Springfield visit.
“That’s so important to them as a company, and that’s another thing that really attracted me to them,” Wilks said. “I love that it’s important to them, because it’s sure important to Scott and (me).”