It's been about two weeks since customers arrived in Donut City, Seal Beach, California, to buy dozens of donuts at 4:30 am. On Monday, the store was sold out at 7:30 am – hours before the usual 2 pm. Business hours.
Customers say the donuts are delicious. But that's why they have not been waiting to buy them in the last few weeks.
It started a few weeks ago when customers realized something was wrong. For 28 years now, the friendly husbands Stella and John Chhan have been standing behind the counter every day selling their freshly made breakfast treats. But one day Stella Chhan was not there.
When the customers inquired, John Chhan, 62, said she had an aneurysm on September 22 and was recovering in a nursing home. He would visit his wife (63) in the afternoons as soon as all donuts were sold and the store was clean.
That's all it needed.
"The days passed and I just could not get it out of my head," customer Dawn Caviola told the Orange County Register. "So I thought if enough people bought a dozen donuts every morning, he could close early and go to his wife."
Caviola posted the idea on Nextdoor's neighborhood board and neighbors and fans of Donut City responded magnificently. They appeared in the dark and ordered dozens of donuts and croissants. At 6 o'clock in the morning there is often a line to the door.
"We are ready for today. Sold out about half an hour ago, "Chhan said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post Monday around 8:00 am local time California.
"Many people come in and buy three, four, five dozen," he said, adding that he sold about 50 dozen donuts on Monday.
Faithful customer Jenee Rogers said she has been a regular customer in Donut City for 20 years. She said that John and Stella Chhan are "humble, smiling people." She saw a local news bulletin about the effort to help the chhans, including the details that someone was trying to set up a GoFundMe site to raise money for the chhans, but he declined the offer.
Rogers said that she and all her friends started spreading the word, going to the store early and buying donuts.
"I was like," Wait, this is my donut store, "Rogers, 47, said." We posted and posted again – and every day I was down there, the line was out the door. "
Rogers, whose family owns the M & M Surfing School at Seal Beach, said the surf school buys donuts every Sunday for their local community. When she arrived at 6:30 this Sunday, she asked John Chhan which donuts sell the slowest. He told her the cake variety and she bought a dozen of them.
"It was almost sold out," Rogers said. "It was a slim selection."
When John Chhan cleared his shop on Monday morning, he said he would finish and then go to his wife. He said the two came from Cambodia in the late 1970s, bought Donut City in 1990, and have since been happy small business owners.
When Stella Chhan initially got sick some weeks ago, she said she could not talk and had difficulty moving. Now she talks a little and can sit down alone. "She's getting better," he said.
During the phone call, he paused to tell several customers that he was out of stock.
Then he turned back to the phone call and emphasized how incredibly grateful he is for his dedicated customers.
"I appreciate it very much," he said. "I just can not say enough, thanks and thanks."
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