Montrose just got a whole lot sweeter with the arrival of a new Voodoo Doughnut location on Westheimer. Voodoo’s CEO, Chris Schultz, is excited to make his mark on one of his favorite areas of Houston by bringing jobs, joy, and a wide variety of one-of-a-kind doughnuts to the gayborhood.
“I have been in the restaurant business for 41 years. I’ve never worked in another industry,” Schultz explains. “I didn’t go to college. It wasn’t even a conversation at the time. I just wasn’t a good student.” Having started his career in the food and beverage industry at Starbucks during their early days, the charismatic CEO moved on to MOD Pizza during its early days. Finally, he answered the call of the doughnut. “Voodoo had been in place for 15 years when I came. [The founders of the company] did a great job innovating the brand,” he notes. “Knowing your limitations is a sign of a great entrepreneur. They wanted to grow the brand, and knew they needed to get some help.”
When a friend approached Schultz to tell him that a CEO opportunity was available, he responded swiftly: “I am not writing a résumé, and I am not moving to Portland!” Then, after deep breath and a chuckle, Schultz admits that he now has a home in Portland and a profile on LinkedIn.” He explains that the iconic brand already had a cult following, and his goal was to help it grow. “That’s the most important thing we do. We sell doughnuts and make people smile.”
With plenty of doughnut shops in Houston to choose from, Schultz explains how Voodoo sets itself apart from the pack. “We were the inventors of gourmet doughnuts. Our founders were the inventors of the bacon maple bar,” he explains. “One of our founders was opening the store one day, and he had brought in bacon for breakfast. He randomly put it on a maple bar, and thought they should be sold.”
What happened next put the shop on the map. “Anthony Bourdain was in Portland during his early TV days, and someone told him he needed to go to Voodoo. He came over and got a bacon maple bar and loved it!” This mentality of trying innovative flavors is still alive at the company today. “We challenge ourselves to think outside of the box. We have a doughnut coming out called Hide and Go Peep, and it looks like and tastes like Peeps! Who doesn’t want that?”
Setting the tone for his Montrose shop, which opened on March 31 in the renovated strip center next to Legacy Community Health, Schultz lays out what customers can expect. “You’ll see an unbelievable painted mural wall that captures Houston and Montrose. We have 12 chandeliers, which is a little campy, but it’s Montrose! I can’t just put up white tiles and cement floors in Montrose. The hallway to the bathroom is entirely pink, and our bathrooms are pink with doughnut wallpaper. We do a black-velvet wall painting in every store for good mojo. If someone gets married at one of our stores, they stand under the painting for good luck. For Montrose, the theme is going to be Wes Anderson. He’s from the neighborhood, and represents what makes it cool.”
The CEO’s energy level while describing the interior of the store goes up as he speaks passionately about what drew him to Voodoo Doughnut in the first place. “The best thing that we’re doing is hiring 70 Houstonians from the neighborhood to come to work. We pay above minimum wage, and are giving these folks a chance to pay their bills and take care of their families at a time when people are struggling to find a job. I’m mostly excited about [creating a place where employees] are respected and taken care of, and it doesn’t feel like work.” Schultz emphasizes that it’s his employees who keep him motivated and inspired every day. “I want to give others the same opportunities I had. That should be the objective of every business: Take care of your people.”
When asked what his goals are for his Montrose shop, Schultz pauses before describing the customer experience he intends to offer. “My hope for Houstonians is that, for a brief moment, they can leave their troubles at the door. When you go to a doughnut shop, it should be a moment in time when you disappear from the world’s troubles. For that five to ten minutes in the shop, just step away from life!”
For more information on Voodoo Doughnut, visit voodoodoughnut.com.
This article appears in the April 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.