Skip to main content

Fox’s Donut Den has satisfied Lipscomb’s sweet tooth for 50 years

Alumni-owned, Green Hills donut shop was a big hit on National Donut Day 2023, but has always been first in the heart of Bisons since 1973.

Janel Shoun-Smith | 615.966.7078 | 

Ted stands next to his father Norman Fox (seated) inside the Donut Den.

Friday, June 2, was an unusual day for Norman Fox (’68) and his son, former Lipscomb Academy student Ted Fox

The first Friday in June, National Donut Day, is always a big day for Fox’s Donut Den, a beloved old-fashioned donut shop located about a mile from the Lipscomb campus. But 2023’s National Donut Day fell almost to the day on the Donut Den’s 50th anniversary.

The Foxes decided to celebrate in a big way and offer half a dozen glazed donuts for 25 cents, the price charged on opening day in 1973. In preparation, Donut Den employees quadrupled the donut mix, making more than they have ever made before for one day’s sales.

But still, the showcase was empty of donuts by about 9 a.m. thanks to the huge customer response. Lines of customers waited for freshly baked donuts to emerge from the kitchen throughout the day and many took coupons to get their 25-cent half-dozen later in the year.

Lipscomb students eating at the Donut Den

The Donut Den serves glazed, chocolate glazed, eclairs, maple, cinnamon, sprinkled and filled, donut holes, blueberry cake donuts, old-fashioned cake donuts, cinnamon rolls, turnovers and apple fritters (the shop’s most popular item).

Over the past 50 years, Fox’s Donut Den has become a local landmark frequented by celebrities and community leaders and a go-to for wedding donuts or party-size Texas Donuts, but it’s roots are more humble and tied closely to Lipscomb, the university that Norman Fox and his wife Barbara (’70) graduated from and worked at for many years. 

After teaching biology at Lipscomb Academy for four years, Norman was looking to go to graduate school at Vanderbilt University and was interested in a way to finance his future endeavors. He sold Bibles for Southwestern Bible during the summer, and Herb Stewart, a fellow salesman who also owned a donut shop on the side, suggested that such a venture would be a good source of income for his future.

Stewart taught Norman how to cook donuts, and in 1973, the Foxes established the Donut Den in the shops across Granny White Pike from campus (taking the former Pizzazz Pizza spot). They began selling a variety of donuts, reminiscent of donut shops of yesteryear. 

Photo of star-shaped donuts and donut holes in the display case.

Many a Lipscomb student will remember heading across the street to buy one of those donuts, whose flavors and recipes remain the same today: glazed, chocolate glazed, eclairs, maple, cinnamon, sprinkled and filled, donut holes, blueberry cake donuts, old-fashioned cake donuts, cinnamon rolls, turnovers and apple fritters (the shop’s most popular item).

“To this day, we pretty much make the same donuts that he taught us to make,” said Norman. “As long as we just keep doing what Herb said to do, we are doing good.”

In 1977, the Foxes had the opportunity to move to Hillsboro Road, a more commercial area in Green Hills. For a while, they ran both locations, transporting donuts in a van over to the store adjacent to Lipscomb, but in the end, they gave up their Lipscomb spot to Pizza Perfect, and it was the Hillsboro Road store, with its neon sign, that became iconic.

The Donut Den sign dates back to pre-1970s, when it was used by Harlow’s Honey Fluff Donuts of Memphis, said Norman. Through connections, the Foxes were able to acquire the sign, ship it from Memphis to Nashville and re-work it to say Fox’s Donut Den to hang above their new location when they moved.

Donut Den exterior at night

The sign has become so well-known that when the landlord began renovating the shopping center, about 2005, he took a poll of the public to decide whether the historic sign should be changed or left in place. Leaving it in place won by a landslide, and the landlord refurbished it at his own expense, said Norman.

Over the years, there are some things that have changed in the little shop. The Donut Den now offers today’s popular pastry—the croissant donut, as well as muffins, breakfast sandwiches and other items. They began getting orders for weddings about 10 years ago, said Ted Fox. The “Texas Donut,” one donut big enough for parties, was originally made to allow customers to guess how much they weighed, but they were put on sale by an enterprising employee and became a hit.

“We’re always looking for a new thing, but mainly we’re still an old-fashioned donut shop,” said Norman.

Along with the donuts, the connection to Lipscomb has also remained the same. He credits much of Donut Den’s success to Harold Graves (’77), the shop’s longtime cook who started working there as a Lipscomb student.

Scores of Lipscomb students have worked as part-time employees at the shop, including some who went on to become Lipscomb faculty members, some who were second-generation Donut Den workers and several who were children of Lipscomb presidents.

In fact, Rachel Flatt, daughter of former Lipscomb President Steve Flatt (BA '77) often helps her husband Ted Fox at the shop today. Abigail and Henry McQueen, Lipscomb students and children of current president Candice McQueen, have both also served customers at the shop.

Purple donuts with yellow sprinkles

The best part of a part-time job at the Donut Den is that “you learn to deal with the public,” said Norman, and that’s his favorite part of the business as well: getting to know interesting people. From presidential candidates to movie stars, the Donut Den has satisfied the sweet tooth of many influential people throughout the years, he said. 

All three of Norman and Barbara’s children—Ted, Tiffany Fox (LA ’96) and Tara Fox Finney (LA ’02) and their son-in-law Joseph Finney (LA ’02)—attended Lipscomb Academy and spent many hours working at the shop, even before they were tall enough to see over the register, said Ted.

Through the years Norman taught biology at the university and Barbara taught in the university’s computer science department as well as teaching in Nashville’s elementary schools. 

So after 50 years of cooking donuts, which one is Norman’s favorite: the cherry turnover, he says. But it’s the apple fritters that “people are the most mad when we are out of them,” chuckles Norman.

Cutting dough to make donuts

“To this day, we pretty much make the same donuts that he taught us to make,” Norman said of his donut-selling mentor, Herb Stewart.

Show in all news Feeds?