A pink doughnut with sprinkles, please, and a bag of doughnut holes for a sweet treat later. That’s been my order at Shipley Do-Nuts since the days of riding in the backseat of my mom’s car.
I grew up in McAllen, a predominantly Hispanic community known for its cuisine, especially its wide range of tacos, from the Korean-Mexican ones at Nuri’s to the globally inspired ones at La Cocinita. Despite the abundance of unique restaurants, it’s the 24-hour doughnut shop with red and yellow lights on its sign that reminds me most of home. When I moved to Austin for college in 2020, I was surprised—and a bit embarrassed—to discover Shipley was not a strictly McAllen institution but a massive chain, born in Houston and now with 330 locations nationwide (and 350 more to come).
Growing up, my family would go to Shipley on Sunday mornings for a dozen piping-hot glazed doughnuts after church. We’d also stop there for a vanilla iced coffee and a sausage kolache before high school. On rare occasions, I would sneak out of school for a midday snack with my classmates. (That’s a joke, if my former teachers are reading this..) Shipley seemed like a mom-and-pop spot because everyone in town has fond memories of it.
While it isn’t local to McAllen, Shipley was a family-run business for 85 years. Lawrence Shipley Sr. founded it in Houston in 1936. It found its niche by developing an original doughnut recipe with a glaze that didn’t melt off in the Texas heat. “When they bite into that hot donut, it will bring them back every time,” Shipley Sr. said, according to the company’s website. Shipley Sr. started selling a dozen hot glazed doughnuts for 5 cents (equivalent to about a dollar today) from a wholesale bakery, located at 1417 Crocket Street. It was not until the mid-1940s that Shipley opened a retail storefront and began adding menu items, from pastries to klobásníks (although they’re called kolaches in the store). Lawrence Shipley Jr. took on the business and expanded the store to southern states including Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
Although Shipley Do-Nuts has been owned by Austin-based Peak Rock Capital since 2021, its franchisees are locals and help it keep that family-owned feeling. In parts of the Rio Grande Valley, the Duff family has owned four franchises for more than forty years. David Duff, the current owner, said in an interview with the McAllen Chamber of Commerce that he’s witnessed Shipley become a core memory for many visitors. “I look out at our customers and see the kids who used to stand on the chairs and watch me make doughnuts coming in with their kids standing on the chairs watching the employees make doughnuts,” he told the chamber.
I can still remember my family members’ orders. When I was younger, we’d call my grandmother before visiting her to see if she wanted a half-dozen glazed doughnuts. To this day, my father’s order consists of a sausage-and-cheese kolache and a chocolate with icing and walnuts. I remember the jealousy I felt when my sister added a vanilla iced coffee to her order—my preteen self thought that was a sign of maturity. I guess the same could be said for any restaurant, but there’s something special about our Shipley, on the corner of Tenth Street and Pecan Boulevard.