April 2020 -- Repeat customers to YoYo Donuts in Minnetonka might tell you the bakery’s unique maple bacon long johns, mouthwatering coconut cake donuts, and enormous apple fritters sell themselves. Ask the confectioner behind these tasty creations, and he’ll tell you a more nuanced story.
“I spent almost 25 years in corporate communications and marketing,” said Chris Moquist, owner of the family-run pastry shop off Shady Oak Road. “I got sort of burned out and tired of the corporate world ... Too many cooks, too many committees, too many layoffs.”
For his proverbial third act, Moquist turned to his childhood for inspiration.
“As I was growing up, my father would talk about working for my grandfather, who owned creameries in a couple of smaller towns in South Dakota” throughout the 1950s. In front of the family business in Watertown, South Dakota, the Moquists operated a small retail space where residents could buy milk, cheese and butter – plus a homemade treat decidedly not in the dairy family.
Every morning for many years, people drove in from miles around for a chance to snag some of the Moquist family’s fresh-from-the-oven donuts. Made from a rich blend of wheat, barley and potato flours, the details of this beloved recipe were not written down – and regrettably, eventually lost.
“For years, [my father] talked about that donut, saying that if someone could ever replicate it, it would see good business once again,” Moquist recalled. After five years of experimentation, the younger Moquist managed to recreate the recipe. It still gets prominent billing at YoYo Donut, which is currently celebrating its 10th year in business.
Moquist’s baking acumen won him the 2013 season of Food Network miniseries Donut Showdown, but he will be the first to tell you that baking is just one ingredient in his shop’s success. Staffing, inventory, marketing and accounting – entrepreneurs behind any start-up need to make provisions for each.
For years, Moquist has shared insights on these critical business functions with rapt audiences of K-12 students at Edina Public Schools. He does so through the EPS Curriculum Resources Program, an initiative that encourages community members to volunteer their experiences and advise as guest speakers.
When he learned of the opportunity, Moquist saw it as a perfect opportunity to give back to a community and school district that have given so much to his twin daughters, who are now high school juniors at Edina High School.
Moquist is a hit with classrooms of every age. “With the littlest students, it’s very hands-on and a lot of play. I help them build their own classroom “donut shop,” complete with a menu, pricing, paper donuts, and handmade money … As a dad, I miss the days of imaginative play time like this,” he said.
High schoolers, too, can expect an interactive session. “They get enough lectures, enough presented to them. When I’m there, I really want to be a resource about starting and running a business. The more questions they ask, the more interesting and relevant it will be.”
(The toughest question of all might be what his favorite pastry is, but Moquist is ready with an answer: YoYo Donuts’ wild Maine blueberry cake donut, rolled in granulated sugar.)
Carynn Roehrick manages the EPS Curriculum Resources Program. Early this year, as a way of saying thanks, she put Moquist forward for the Edina Community Foundation’s annual Connecting With Kids Leadership Award.
"His ability to connect with students ... and keep them on the edge of their seats is priceless," Roehrick wrote in her letter of commendation.
In early March, the Edina Community Foundation honored its class of 2020 award recipients – Moquist prominent among them – during a leadership breakfast at Edina County Club. Moquist took the offer to share a few remarks as a chance to encourage other Edina residents to explore the Curriculum Resources Program, and volunteering at our schools more generally.
“There are so many talented people in our community who bring so many varied skills and experiences,” he said. “You don’t have to actually speak or present. For many people, I know that’s not their thing … Edina Public Schools can help you find a way to help them.” You just have to take that first step and reach out.
For more information on volunteer opportunities at Edina Public Schools, visit edinaschools.org/volunteer.