Spudnut lives on: Legendary Lethbridge dessert makes a comeback

Spudnut lives on: Legendary Lethbridge dessert makes a comeback

A classic Lethbridge dessert that dates back to the 1940s is due to make a return next week.

For the unfamiliar, a spudnut is a potato-based doughnut that balances sweet and savoury. For decades, the only place they were available in southern Alberta was at Otto's Spudnuts and Ice Cream in Lethbridge.

When that shop closed down in 2000, another started offering them a few years later. But it, too, eventually shut its doors, last October, leaving the people of Lethbridge with no place to find the starchy snack.

That will change next Tuesday.

David Gurr, the general manager of London Road Market in Lethbridge, is reviving the tasty treat and will sell spudnuts at his store starting next week. 

"We've been a business since 1929 and the spudnut shop itself used to be down the road from us," he said.

"We took a look in the marketplace and just said, 'Hey, you know what? We see a gap' … we're going to try it out."

Gurr said they've had two "master bakers" working on the recipe. He is unsure how often they will be providing spudnuts to customers but said it's a good launching pad to see what demand exists.

"If it warrants it, of course we're looking for bigger things, like getting into the fried doughnut business," he said.

History of Lethbridge's spudnut

Gurr said that for those who grew up in Lethbridge — especially the senior residents — spudnuts were a part of their childhood.

Emil Cundlock, a 79-year-old Lethbridgian, said he remembers eating the potato-based dessert when he was a teenager with his family.

His family lived in a town more than 60 kilometres south of Lethbridge, but they would travel to Otto's Spudnuts to pick up a dozen.

"They were extremely light," he recalled. "They weren't like a cake doughnut, like Tim Hortons has, for instance."

As Cundlock got older, he said, the common thing to do on dates was to stop at Otto's for a spudnut and then go see a show.

"You'd have to squirrel some money away to make sure you always had spudnut money … it was just an amazing place."

Cundlock said he plans on being one of the first customers at the London Road Market next week to try its version of spudnuts.

"It's just amazing that Dave is going to do it, and we'll support him as much as we possibly can," he said. "I hope he makes it as good as Otto's.

"Like I say, it was an institution all over southern Alberta."

Nicole Lakusta, daughter of Wolfgang and Angie Otto, the owners of Otto's Spudnuts and Ice Cream, said she knows first-hand about the historical significance of spudnuts.

She said the spudnut franchise was brought to Lethbridge from the United States in the post-war period. Years later, her father bought the business and crafted a new version of the recipe.

"It was a success. We had people from all over the world come and visit when the spudnut shop was operating six days a week," she said.

"My parents continued to, throughout the years, get Christmas cards from all over the world with people reminiscing about their spudnut experiences."

She said she remembers spudnuts being ingrained in the community. When she was young, her father had teenagers take their bicycles and sell them all around Lethbridge.

"Of course, it was about not only the spudnuts, but about the relationships and the atmosphere within the bakery," she said.

While Lakusta is happy the dessert is coming back to Lethbridge, she said she does want to make a point that it's not associated with her dad's spudnut recipe.

"We just wanted to ensure that those who do understand the spudnut legacy are not connecting it with my dad and the work that he did. It is not the same recipe, but it could be just as good of a product," she said.