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Cops and Doughnuts Bakery Business in Clare Michigan Great Example of Entrepreneurship

By Rene Rosencrantz Wheaton

21c3 Asset: Entrepreneurship

Location: Mid- Michigan
Population: 3,173

Clare

Opening day at Clare’s Cops & Doughnuts bakery.

You see, as the name indicates, the owners behind the bakery are actually police officers. Content in their jobs, the officers had no intention of opening a bakery until they learned that the Clare City Bakery—a staple in Clare’s downtown since 1896—was about to close its doors.
“Three of us were sitting around eating pizza and talking about the fact that the bakery was going to close and one of us said, ‘Why don’t we buy it,” said Alan White, one of nine officers who decided to buy the historic business rather than see it close.

The move has made news nationwide and the bakery is a hit with the locals and beyond. Cops & Doughnuts is a great example of the League’s entrepreneurship asset in its Center for 21st Century Communities initiative. Municipalities that focus only on attracting large manufacturers or big box retailers overlook the positive impact that entrepreneurs and small businesses, like the Cops & Doughnuts, can have on local communities. That’s not a mistake City Manager Ken Hibl will make; he’s seen firsthand the impact a small business can have.

“I can’t say enough about Cops & Doughnuts,” Hibl said. “Like a lot of communities in Michigan, the current economy has hit us hard and it meant a lot that those guys got together to keep the bakery open.”

A business plan written on a pizza box sounds a little crazy, but even crazier was the time frame with which the officers were dealing.

“We only had three weeks to make this thing happen,” said Officer Alan White, the vice president of Cops & Doughnuts. “We had this crazy plan and it turned out every member of our department, nine of us total, were interested in doing it. Part of the thinking was that split nine ways there wouldn’t be as much to lose if things went wrong.”

Initially, officers were simply trying to keep the bakery open, but it didn’t take long for them to see that they had a hit on their hands. “Something really magical happened,” White said. “People really responded to the story. We had press from all over. We were featured on Good Morning America and Fox News. It’s just a good story.”

Clare

Cops & Doughnuts inherited the former bakery’s recipes, and also came up with this specialty: ‘the squealer’—a maple-frosted doughnut with two strips of
bacon on top.

Sure, it’s a good story, but Cops & Doughnuts peddles some good doughnuts, too.

“We got the bakery’s recipes as part of the purchase agreement but we’ve added our own flair to them,” White said. “We immediately made our cookies 50 percent bigger. We also have some unique doughnuts like the squealer, which is a maple frosted doughnut with two strips of bacon on top.”

The cookies aren’t the only things that have grown since Clare’s finest took over the bakery; the business has expanded to include more employees, from one when they bought the place to 14 now, a number that swells to 20 during the summer.

The officers have also expanded beyond the bakery business, buying the storefront next to the bakery to sell Cops & Doughnuts merchandise which includes T-shirts with sayings like, “Hand Cuffs and Cream Puffs,” “Fighting Crime One Doughnut at a Time” and “ D.W.I. Doughnuts Were Involved.” T-shirts are available online at www.copsdoughnuts.com.

Cops & Doughnuts also has its own fragrance line, recently started selling fudge, and has a coffee line that will be carried by 35 grocery stores in five different states by December 1.
All the officers involved in Cops & Doughnuts are still full-time police officers. White said the character traits that serve them well as police officers also helps make them successful entrepreneurs.

“We’re a little like a bull in a china shop when it comes to entrepreneurship,” White said. “I think sometimes people are too hesitant. We don’t argue things in committee for three months. If someone has a good idea, we try it.”

The officers’ ideas continue to garner attention. Cops & Doughnuts recently received an Innovation Award from the Michigan Main Street Center. And while the accolades are great, White said the officers behind Cops & Doughnuts are just glad they were able to save the bakery and provide the community with additional jobs. They are excited to see what happens next. “It has definitely been a roller coaster ride,” White said.

 

Rene Rosencrantz Wheaton is a freelance writer. You may contact her at 810-444-3827.

 

 

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