Today our On The Map series makes its next stop in Clare.
As you drive down any highway in Michigan, you may see an unfamiliar (or familiar) billboard for “Cops & Doughnuts” a ‘World Famous Bakery in Clare.’ Talking with the owners of the bakery you would never know these guys are world famous, as they act like a friendly hometown neighbor.
Cops and Doughnuts is a bakery shop and diner. Famous for their coffee and doughnuts, it wasn’t always a cop shop.
It opened as a bakery in downtown Clare in 1896, but after over 100 years in business, it was in danger of being shut down in 2009.
Al White, known as “Bubba”, is one of the bakery’s 9 co-owners. He’s also a Clare city police officer.
When he and his colleagues heard the news, they knew what to do.
“We were really disappointed, not only because our only doughnut shop was going to close, but because it’s a historic business, it’s a foundation business in this community and we were disappointed it was going to close. So we decided that all 9 of us- that’s how many full time officers there were- chief, administrative assistant and 7 officers. We each put up our own money and bought the bakery.”
As the saying goes, White says, the rest is history.
“It just went nuts. And I think the reason is it’s a great story. People love a good story.”
People are now coming from all over the world to see these entrepreneurial officers.
Looking at the map on the wall, you can see customers coming from Rhode Island, Florida, and North Dakota; and as far away as England.
White says it’s a place where old friends can “solve the world’s problems.”
That’s exactly what Dan Bay does every morning.along with his friends Duffy, Ray Browers, and two guys known as TJ. They meet up everyday here to check up on the latest news in Clare, and have a couple bakery items as well.
“I get a coffee and I usually get here once a day but today I might get here twice later depending on what happens- It’s early Dan- I know but I had to come to town so I stopped. And these guys came in so here we are.”
Cops & Doughnuts headquarters is in Clare, but now the coffee, doughnuts, and merchandise is being sold at several places around central Michigan. Their latest shop will be at Jays Sporting Goods in Clare. They’re excited to be working with a family business.
“We’re not bashful- we’re not the government we don’t have to be transparent like they are but last year our little business – just last year our payroll was $733,000.”
That’s Greg “Ryno” Rynearson, another co-owner, talking about the logistics of the growing operation.
“In that six years we’ve ran over a million people through here, I’m actually going to sit down and try to get a good guesstimate average of how many millions of doughnuts we’ve made in that six years. And we have literally brought millions of dollars of total revenue to town.”
Al White says Cops & Doughnuts is trying to keep the small town coffee shop feel, even though the business is continuing to grow.
“We’re not a fancy coffee shop, those have their place. But we’re a cup of joe and a doughnut, and sit around with friends at the big old round table and talk about what’s going on in town and solve a few world problems.”
Homegrown, and now world famous and, also perhaps the safest coffee shop in America is putting Clare on the map.