July 25, 2009 -- On McEwan Street in downtown Clare, Mich., a half-dozen stores have recently closed their doors. The state's slumping economy has hit businesses hard in this town of 3,000.
City Bakery, the local doughnut shop, was set to be the latest casualty. The owner planned to shutter the shop after 113 years in business. But at the last minute, a group of loyal customers stepped in to save the place: The Clare Police Department.
You've heard the one about cops and doughnut shops, right? Well, this is no joke.
"All the members of the department were approached about it," said Brian Gregory, an officer with the department. "[It] took us about 10 minutes to make the decision that we want to keep it going, and let's buy it."
All nine of the town's officers pooled their money, wrote out a business plan on the back of a pizza box, and decided to try their hand at the doughnut business. They've changed the name of the bakery to "Cops & Doughnuts."
"Probably without all nine of us being involved, it wouldn't have been possible, so it really took the strength of everybody in the department, the commitment of everybody, to get involved," said Officer Greg Kolhoff.
Now, when the officers aren't fighting crime ... they're serving long johns and fritters.
"On days off, we're not home ... we're here," said officer John Pedjac. "We're having so much fun with it, you know."
Customers are having fun with it, too. They're lining up from all over the state and all over the country. Many are amused and impressed by the change in ownership.
"That the police would take their time and money and invest in a local business so that they could stay here instead of going under -- I think that's pretty cool," said customer Carol Chiolino.
Cops Cash in on Stereotype
That old cliche about police and doughnuts is paying off for the officers.
"If it were 'Farmers and Doughnuts,' it probably wouldn't have the big draw to it that it does, but since we've taken advantage of this so-called stereotype, people are drawn to it," said Gregory.
The doughnut shop is so busy, the kitchen is rolling out 120 dozen doughnuts every day, and they can barely keep up. The officers have hired 15 staff members to meet the demand. That's good news in a state with an unemployment rate of 15.2 percent, the highest in the nation.
"I always wanted to be knee-deep in dough, but I didn't think it was gonna be a bakery," joked Kolhoff.
The bakery also has an online store, selling mugs and T-shirts bearing the "Cops & Doughtnuts" logo along with phrases such as "You Have the Right to Remain Glazed," and "Handcuffs and Cream Puffs" on the fronts. The officers say they've received orders from all over the world, even as far away as China.
The officers have already received calls inquiring about franchising their idea. But for now, the Clare Police Department is content to keep it local, as they try to save their hometown, one doughnut at a time.
For more information, visit Cops & Doughnuts at www.copsdoughnuts.com.