By Ed Jacques, LEJ Editor
Allen White fondly remembers frequenting the Clare City Bakery as a young man growing up in Clare, Michigan. As a matter of fact so did his father and his fathers’ father. Of course, as the stereotype would have it, he never stopped enjoying the coffee and doughnuts when he became a full-time police officer in the city. That’s why he was so upset when he heard the 113-year-old bakery in downtown Clare was about to close its doors for good and end a tradition that began around the time of America’s Industrial Revolution. White and fellow Clare police officer Greg Rynearson began scribbling down ideas and eventually a business plan on the empty pizza box they had just devoured for lunch. White and Rynearson approached Chief Dwayne Miedzianowski and other police officers about their crazy idea to buy and save the bakery. “The initial reaction was a lot of snickering and jokes about the entire notion” White said. “But, as we all talked more, the idea that some small town cops come to the rescue of the local doughnut shop might pack a big enough punch to make it successful.” When it was all said and done, all seven full-time police officers, including Chief Miedzianowski and Administrative Assistant John Pedjak decided to make the investment. The bakery’s new official name was now Cops & Doughnuts and the store opened for business on July 1, 2009 to plenty of customers who were appreciative of their efforts and determined to not allow another downtown business to shut down. “The goal of our group was to keep the bakery’s doors open and continue to give people a reason to frequent downtown Clare,” said Chief Miedzianowski. “Of course, to do that we had to at least break even on the deal.” Shortly thereafter, the story caught the attention of United Press International, leading to a news story on CNN News, Headline News and a live remote broadcast from the bakery by the Fox News Network. Business at the store boomed and hits on the bakery’s website, www.copsdoughnuts. com skyrocketed with interest coming from all over the world. “I thought we’d get some press because of the quirkiness of the story,” commented White. “But who could have imagined a satellite beaming a signal to twenty-two million people?” Business has quadrupled what the officers had originally anticipated. During the first two weeks that Cops & Doughnuts was open for business White was averaging two radio interviews a day. As business continued to improve, in August the bakery began to offer a variety of breads and pies. But the biggest demand for products were t-shirts, polo shirts, shorts, aprons, traveling mugs, hats, golf towels and other offerings. Many of those orders were coming via the internet. T-shirts that were originally ordered a dozen at a time are now being ordered by the thousands. They come with catchy phrases such as “you have the right to remain glazed,” and others. Business was so good that the officers contemplated buying the vacant building adjacent to the bakery to display their hot selling retail merchandise. “We didn’t know if this enterprise was a bubble that was going to pop,” said Rynearson. “But as business stayed consistent, the owners felt safe in expanding.” During their days off at the police department the partners cleaned, painted and prepared the additional space for another grand opening over the Labor Day weekend. The officers are attempting to keep a proper perspective on the business, even as their sales volume increases and franchise offers come to the table. White is particular proud of his colleagues and the impact they have on their community. “Every police officer in our department is concerned about the citizens of Clare and its business sector. What started as a goodwill project is now benefiting a lot more people than we ever realized.” The bakery now employees 24 people, many of them high school and college students that Officer White, the Clare schools Liaison Officer, has known literally since they were in kindergarten. Although none of the owners are permanent workers at the bakery, they all help out when needed. “Although the nine Clare police department employees have taken some good natured ribbing for their purchase of the bakery, the experience has been a labor of love that has strengthened their friendships,” White said.