St. Petersburg Mini Doughnut Factory closes for good, as legal battle drags

Investor-turned-owner accuses shop founders of withholding company cars and doughnut recipes
The Mini Doughnut Factory at 30 4th St N in St. Petersburg when it opened in 2017. (DIRK SHADD |   Times )
The Mini Doughnut Factory at 30 4th St N in St. Petersburg when it opened in 2017. (DIRK SHADD | Times )
Published March 26
Updated March 26

ST. PETERSBURG — After reopening just two months ago, the Mini Doughnut Factory on 4th Street N is closed again. This time, for good.

The shop had been temporarily shut down in late December, when an ongoing legal feud between investor Lee Kearney and founders Patrick and Zezura Ruddell hit an all-time low.

"With a heavy heart, we have made the conscious decision to close our St Pete store, effective today March 24th," the doughnut shop posted to its Facebook page. "This is entirely a business decision and we are sad to leave the St Pete community. We love our St Pete family and are thankful for the time we were able to serve you."

The store's location in South Tampa is still open. Kearney was able to reopen that location by early January and the St. Pete location by Jan. 22. In the weeks prior to the St. Pete closing, filings in Hillsborough County Circuit Court show the doughnut dispute dragging on.

Kearney's original lawsuits accused the Ruddells of breaking an agreement, the terms of which meant ownership of the doughnut business would be moved under his control. He further claims the Ruddells the withheld information he needed to run the business. Kearney has said the couple was being uncooperative in that transition.

Among Kearney's allegations were that the Ruddells had defaulted on loans and owed him and his associates roughly $875,000; that the couple were using cash for personal use rather than for the business; and that they had put their 15-year-old daughter in a management position.

The latest filings accuse the Ruddells of failing to abide by a business turnover agreement they reached in court.

The Ruddells, according to the filing, had 72 hours starting Feb. 1 to turn over needed info, such as logins to online business accounts and social media, company cars, doughnut recipes, pre-orders and customer information.

But according to a Feb. 11 complaint, Kearney didn't receive everything he needed — including recipes and two Mini Coopers used for doughnut deliveries. Kearney said the Ruddells also never gave permission to the Wesley Chapel dealership to remove Patrick Ruddell's name from the lease.

On Feb. 22, the court granted the Ruddells a 30-day extension to respond to Kearney's latest complaint.

As of Tuesday, the court's online case system had yet to show a filed response. Neither Kearney nor Patrick Ruddell immediately responded to requests for comment.

Contact Sara DiNatale at Follow @sara_dinatale.