Off campus

Ralph’s vs. Big O Donuts: a Donut Duel

Cookeville is known for its college town charm, full of local businesses. Two locally-owned donut shops call Cookeville home, and the question must be asked: which donut shop is better, Ralph’s or Big O Donuts? 

When asked this question, there is a clear divide among Tech students. Some are strong supporters of Ralph’s, while others are die-hard Big O’s fans. 

The University Christian Student Center was given a poll, asking which donut shop was best. Out of the 82 individuals who responded, 59 were in favor of Ralph’s. 

“Ralph’s doughnuts are [more fresh] than Big O’s and the doughnut shop environment at Ralph’s is… friendlier and inviting,” Emma Gunnells, a student at the UCSC, stated.  

“Ralph’s is my place,” said sophomore Ali Grant, who  shared Gunnells’ opinion.  “Ralph’s donuts have always been higher quality, but I used to be team Big O’s.” 

Ralph’s Donuts has been a staple in Cookeville since 1962. This building has had many tech students walk through its doors over the years.

After surveying other individuals, this seems to be a common opinion.

Many students loved that Big O Donuts was closer to campus, and that it was open 24 hours. However, Big O’s has since moved to be a mile and a half away from campus, and their hours are more strict: 6am – 6pm, closed on Wednesdays. Their prices are ideal, though: $1.09 for one donut. 

Ralph’s Donut Shop, though, is only one mile from campus, and has not changed location since it opened in 1962. It is open from 5am – 11:30pm, and their prices are almost identical to Big O’s’: $1.10 for a single donut, and $10.50 for a dozen. Additionally, students found  the environment at Ralph’s charming. 

Owner John MacDonald himself described Ralph’s atmosphere as, “cheerful, busy, [with an] upbeat attitude.” He suggested this environment is beneficial to more than just the customers. “The whole atmosphere… affects how the donuts taste.”

The visual aspects of Ralph’s contribute to the atmosphere . The sliding door donut cases appear to be original to the shop,  and the paintings on the outside of the shop mimic a 1960’s style. 

When asked if the coronavirus has affected business, MacDonald answered, “Yes, for a time it did.” He said that during the worst of the epidemic, the store’s drive through was, “absolutely helpful.” Ralph’s is back to operating normally. 

Big O Donuts declined an interview, but freshman Caleb Sowards recently visited the establishment, and offered his opinion. He described the environment as, “not welcoming.” He elaborated, saying that Big O’s felt, “more business oriented, and less personal. They were more focused on the profit than the customer.”

Tom Bonning, owner of Big O Donuts, told 94.1, the Upper Cumberland News Talk radio station that the business was forced to move after the building had been bought out. 

“The building got sold without being offered to us,” he said. Bonning later commented that the COVID-19 epidemic and moving their business was challenging to recover from. 

Big O’s has had a rough go of things, just like the rest of us this year. Ralph’s Donuts, however, has continued to produce a friendly atmosphere, and showstopping donuts according to the students polled.