Philly Is About to Become Even More of a Doughnut Town

Federal Donuts scores investment backing and Mochinut moves in with five locations.

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Federal Donuts / Photograph courtesy of Federal Donuts

Federal Donuts – the Pennsport doughnut shack where we waited in line for hot doughnuts 10 years ago, where we stopped to eat fried chicken in the sun – will soon become a legit regional franchise, spreading out across the Mid-Atlantic. They may expand to 150 locations in the near future.

Currently Federal Donuts operates 11 locations in and around the city – at the stadiums, in Center City, and in that Whole Foods in Wynnewood. These 11 spots vary in size, all serving good coffee, doughnuts from a robot, and fried chicken. Now, after a couple years of discussions and negotiations (going all the way back to the days before the pandemic), it was announced last week that FedNuts has secured an investment from Radnor-based equity investment firm NewSpring that will move them toward a massive expansion.

CookNSolo (and partners Michael Solomonov, Steve Cook, Felicia D’Ambrosio, Bob Logue and Tom Henneman) has grown slowly, perfecting their offerings, expanding their menu, and solidifying a name. A couple years ago, they made a brief play at expansion into Miami, but that tanked. The new flagship here in Philly did not.

“In 2011, when Steve, Mike, Bobby, Felicia and I bootstrapped this business on a quiet corner in South Philadelphia, we couldn’t have imagined what Federal Donuts would become.” That’s Henneman, quoted in the announcement by NewSpring Franchise, the wing of the firm dedicated to investing in multi-unit concepts. “Taking this next step to partner with NewSpring will give us the opportunity to be a part of so many more neighborhoods.”

The expansion will work as a combination of owned and franchised operations, limited (for now, at least) to the Mid-Atlantic region. Cook and Solomonov remain owners. Henneman will stick around as Federal Donuts CEO. All three will “stay closely involved in both strategic and day-to-day operations,” according to NewSpring. But the firm is also bringing on three of their own to the FedNuts board of directors – and here’s where things get interesting. They’re appointing Satya Ponnuru and Patrick Sugrue, both NewSpring partners, and also Jeff Benjamin — co-founder and COO of Vetri Management. Yes, the person who helped Marc Vetri open Vetri back in the day. And yes, Vetri, where Solomonov cut his teeth before going off and doing his own thing.

Speaking of doughnuts and expansion, how’s this for synchronicity? At the same time that Federal Donuts is transforming into a regional doughnuts-and-fried-chicken powerhouse, Mochinut (a mochi doughnut, Korean hotdog, and boba tea operation with nearly 70 locations in the U.S. right now) is eyeing a substantial move into the Philly region.

Half Japanese mochi and half American doughnut, mochi doughnuts are made with rice flour and originate in Hawaii. They’re generally constructed of mochi balls, stuck together in a ring, then glazed with anything from ube to black sesame, chocolate to Nutella. They’re chewy, crispy, and sweet all at once. Similar to K-dogs (Korean corndogs sometimes coated with crispy ramen noodles or bright red hot Cheetos dust), the mochi doughnut is pure junk food delight.

Mochi Ring Donuts, one of Philly’s first dedicated mochi doughnut shops opened in Rittenhouse at 102 South 21st Street a couple weeks back. It has three existing locations, including Rittenhouse, a shop in Jenkintown, and one in Edison, New Jersey.

But Mochinut is different. It’s an international operation with locations in 11 states already, as well as shops in South Korea and Thailand. And while Mochinut’s first foothold in Philly looks like it’s minutes from opening at 809 North 2nd Street in Northern Liberties, they’ve also got four more coming: 1023 Arch Street in Chinatown, 108 Chestnut Street in Old City, 7320 Old York Road in Elkins Park and 1222 Welsh Road in North Wales. That’s a big expansion into the market. And I am personally psyched about it.