Cops, Doughnuts, a Small Town, a Growing Tourist Draw

Cops and Doughnuts storefrontPeanut butter and jelly, ying and yang, orange juice and breakfast. They go together like, well like Cops and Doughnuts. No, not the stereotype connection of police officers snacking on the fried snack, but the real thing: The Cops and Doughnuts bakery in Clare, Michigan. The particular bakery has good coffee, a wide assortment of tasty baked goods, clever bakery related merchandise, a strong connection to the community and a great story to tell that all began a couple of years ago on the back of a pizza box.

In 2009, the only bakery in Clare, established in 1896, was in danger of closing. That’s when the nine full-time members of the city’s Police Department banded together to save it. They drafted a business plan of sorts on the back of a pizza box, pooled their resources and purchased the bakery housed in an historic building on the city’s main street. They then set to hiring additional staff and broadened the offerings. The place took off—and not because the bakery’s owners were its own best customers. Locals were glad to still have the bakery. Plus, it was a clever concept and the police officers added to it by installing displays of police related items like badges and photos. The bakery’s opening received press coverage all over the state, which helped contribute to its early success.

The bakery itself was small, with barely room for the counter and a few tables, so when a store next door became available, the bakery expanded into the building, adding even more tables, free Wi-Fi, merchandise including t-shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers and even Cops and Doughnuts branded coffees produced by Paramount Coffee of Lansing, MI. Their coffee is sold in stores in five states. The merchandise sports clever statements like “Don’t glaze me, bro,” “Fighting Crime One Doughnuts at a Time and D.W.I. Doughnuts Were Involved. The merchandise is also being sold online at copsdoughnuts.com. While some of the merchandise sports a photo of the nine owners in uniform, all of it mentions the bakery’s location n Clare.

And Clare, Michigan can use the promotion. A town of slightly more than 3,000, it was once a vibrant lumbering town in the late-1800s as trains and wagons brought men and machinery to harvest the giant white pine that grew in the surrounding county.  The money those pines represented then brought retailers, bar owners and other to the area. However, once the trees were gone, the lumbermen moved onto greener pastures, Clare became a sleepy town relying on agriculture and tourism. The city is home to a number of nice shops and boutiques but many are struggling because they lack the number of shoppers needed to survive, much less prosper.

The bakery is helping to grow tourism. While not quite yet “world famous” as some of the bakery’s ads state, people are coming to Clare to visit the bakery.  In fact, the bakery was recently recognized as one of 2011’s “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch” by the Edward Lowe Foundation and presented the Michigan Celebrates Small Business. McEwen, Clare’s main street, was recently one of five main streets in Michigan chosen to receive branding services from the Michigan Main Street Center at Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Among the services were be help in developing a brand to help distinguish main street along with a new logo and a new website.

Cops and Doughnuts is a great example of a community coming together to save a community asset and then taking advantage of branding opportunities to market and grow a business. Whether the police officers knew what they were doing when they developed their initial plan or not, they have done a great job of promoting their business and getting others to help them do so.

The Cops and Doughnuts doughnut logo

The other day I was sitting in the bakery using its free Wi-Fi and overheard one of the owners talking about the fact the bakery’s sign out front sports pink glaze on the doughnut.

According to the conversation, a young girl came into the bakery along with her parents not long after the place reopened. When asked what kind of doughnut she wanted, the girl responded that she had hoped for one with “pink frosting and sprinkles,” but didn’t see a doughnut like that among all the other doughnuts in the display case.

The woman behind the counter told the girl conspiratorially, “We knew you were coming and didn’t want anyone else to buy it so I kept the doughnut with the pink frosting in the back. Wait here.” She then headed into the back.

The owner, who was telling the story, said he followed the woman to see what she was up to because he knew the bakery didn’t have pink frosting. He watched the woman take the red and white frosting they did have, mix them together, smear the resulting frosting on a doughnut, add some sprinkles and head back to the front where she presented the doughnut to the little girl who was amazed to have gotten the doughnut with  pink frosting she was craving.

“I tell that story to all our new employees as an example of the customer service we give here at our bakery,” the owner said, adding that when the bakery’s logo designer asked what color frosting the bakery owners wanted on its sign on the bakery  everyone was in agreement color should be pink, as a reminder of the little girl and the bakery’s commitment to service.

It’s a great story in a bakery with a great doughnuts and a great future. And, as its website states, with cops as owners the bakery is easily one of the safest places around.

Categories: Economy, General, History, Michigan, Travel and tourism, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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