Before policeman Alan White, 49, begins his day-time shift in Clare, Mich. (pop. 3,118), he usually stops by the town’s century-old bakery to grab a cup of coffee and greet the customers, often alongside his fellow officers.
“When we’re off-duty, we’re at the bakery,” says White, who in 2009 joined eight other members of the town’s police force and bought the 1896 Clare City Bakery, which was on the verge of closing.
“There were already five closed store-fronts in a three-block area,” White recalls. “If the bakery folded, what would be next?”
The officers each contributed $1,500, formed a business partnership and, capitalizing on the stereotype of doughnut-eating cops, gave the bakery an appropriate and novel name—Cops & Doughnuts.
To announce the new bakery’s grand opening, Officer Greg Rynearson, 50, circulated a news release. When Associated Press picked up the local story, the offbeat news of a cop-owned doughnut shop was dispatched nationwide.
“The next thing we knew, Fox News, CNN and “Good Morning America” were doing stories about us, and people were lined up around the block to get doughnuts,” recalls White, vice president of Cops & Doughnuts.
The novelty of the bakery’s name lent itself to police-themed fare, including the Night Stick, a cinnamon twist; the Taser, a lemon-filled doughnut; the Squealer, a maple-frosted long john topped with two strips of bacon; and cups of Morning Shift (regular), Night Shift (dark roast) and Off-Duty (decaffeinated) Cops Coffee. The Felony Fritter—a fried apple pastry as big as a plate—is the bakery’s best-seller.
With the help of general manager Sherry Kleinhardt, 50, and 30 full-time and part-time employees, the Clare cops have turned the bakery into a thriving—and expanding—business. Kleinhardt oversees day-to-day operation, hiring and scheduling staff and supervising production of the bakery’s doughnuts, cookies, muffins, breads and pies.
Rynearson, White and fellow officer Brian Gregory, 52, manage the shop’s finances and marketing, and spend their off-duty hours meeting and greeting bakery customers. “People expect real cops and real doughnuts,” says White, noting that six other officers are silent investors.
Mug shots and coffee mugs
Shortly after opening the bakery, the cops bought an adjacent vacant store for additional seating and the Cop Shop, which features police-themed merchandise and displays, including a collection of police department patches from across the nation. Customers can’t resist getting their mug shots taken or picking up a coffee mug or T-shirt emblazoned with slogans such as “Don’t Glaze Me, Bro” and “DWI—Doughnuts Were Involved.”
“I’ve worked in downtown Clare for 18 years and have never seen so many people in town,” says Karla Swanson, 57, who stops by the bakery daily with her husband, Dan, 64, for a cup of coffee or a piece of pie. “I thought it couldn’t last, but it has helped the community greatly.”
“If it wasn’t for them, there’d be three empty storefronts,” Dan adds. “People used to drive by Clare. Now, they come into town.”
Last summer, the Clare cops bought the storefront on the south side of the bakery and added the Traffic Stop Diner, which serves sandwiches with names such as the Sticky Situation and the Misdemeanor Wiener. Cops & Doughnuts also opened a “precinct” store in nearby Harrison (pop. 2,108) that sells baked goods supplied by the Clare location.
“When we bought the bakery, we figured we’d break even,” White says. “Our goal was to run it for five or 10 years, and then sell it. Now, we’ll never sell it. Police work may be our full-time job, but this is where the fun is.”
Cops & Doughnuts provides the community with more than baked goods. The bakery has sponsored baseball and youth soccer teams, and helped send the high school marching band to a state competition. When the Clare Parks Department ran short of money to complete a beautification project, the bakery made up the difference. And where does the Harley Hog Motorcycle Club kick off its annual Toys for Tots drive? At Cops & Doughnuts, of course.