Cops & Doughnuts: Behind the badges and doughnuts

In Clare, nine police officers captured all kinds of local and national attention when they banded together to revive the town’s 113-year-old bakery. 

Cops & Doughnuts, the renamed bakery, was an immediate hit. Customers loved the concept, the donuts, and the fun atmosphere created by the cops. They advertised with billboards along local highways.

The police department saved what would have been another empty building in town. There were already several other vacant buildings in a three-block area. Over a decade later, Cops & Doughnuts has expanded into multiple locations, or “precincts,” as the cops, Greg “Ryno” Rynearson, company president, and Alan “Bubba” White, vice president, say. Both men go by their nicknames and they are notorious for their sense of humor — evident throughout their operation. 

Jests aside, Cops & Doughnuts has faced some dire scenarios as a business, almost going bankrupt at one time.

Ryno and Bubba teamed with Traverse City journalist Anne Stanton to tell the story of Cops & Doughnuts, the good and the bad, in a book. Published by Mission Point Press, Cops & Doughnuts: The Amazing Story of a Police Department, a Bakery, and the Comeback of a Small Town was published in the summer. 

The book is more than an American success story. “It’s a lesson for fresh marketing ideas and how civic-minded people can make a difference in any town,” the cover reads.

The book’s inspiration: Their accountant. The nine Clare police officers took on the bakery, thinking it would be something fun. They didn’t even know how to make donuts or run a business.  “It took a whole life of its own,” Bubba says. “We had a lot of ups and downs because we’re a bunch of cops; we didn’t know how to run a bakery.” 

Donuts, pies, and cookies are among the menu items at Cops & Doughnuts.The business, he says, almost went bankrupt but the team managed to climb their way out of that red hole. “Our accountant said, ‘Man, you guys need to write a book! What you guys pulled off is a miracle’” Bubba recalls. 

The authors: Although Bubba is an author himself, the cops wanted an outside writer on board to help them. This is where Anne Stanton came into the picture. “You’ve got nine cops here and we’re like nine brothers,” Bubba says. “If you can imagine being in a family with nine brothers and writing a story about the family— you see it from your angle but they see it from different angles.” 

Stanton and Bubba knew each other through writing. Stanton, editorial director for Mission Point Press, had edited Bubba’s first book. Stanton’s husband, author Doug Stanton, wrote a blurb for Bubba’s book, “Alaska Behind Blue Eyes: A Police Officer Discovers Life, Love and Law Enforcement on the Last Frontier.” 

Bubba says Stanton began the project in January. “She came in and spent months interviewing us, interviewing our guests, doing research into the company. “She came out with a great book,” he says. 

Alan "Bubba" White and Greg "Ryno" Rynearson helped create the book telling the story of Cops & Doughnuts.

The response: Shock and awe. Bubba says locals and those that thought they knew all about Cops & Doughnuts were all surprised at how close the business came to failing. “The other thing that we get is, ‘We had no idea you did this much for the community.’ The different things we do behind the scenes and stuff,” he says. “It’s been very positive. I haven’t seen a single negative review.“ 

The response: So far, more than 1,000 copies of the book have been sold and they are stocking another thousand. The book sells best in the Clare store, but is selling “just fine in other locations too,” Bubba says. There are also stores in Gaylord and Mount Pleasant.

Bubba’s experience: He had a hard time going through the chapter on the company’s rough patch. “I didn’t enjoy that process at all,” he says. “Once we were done with interviews and we had to go through and approve the chapter, I’ll tell you, I’ll never read it again. It was very painful to go through that.” 

He enjoyed telling the stories of the times the cops helped others and funny stories through the years. He particularly enjoyed telling the story of sending a Cops & Doughnuts coffee cup into the stratosphere. He was inspired after learning a group of Norwegian kids had launched a donut into the stratosphere. The story involves the struggle of obtaining permits from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Boy Scouts and ultimately a farmer’s bean field in Linwood. There is an entire chapter of the book dedicated to this story. Spoiler alert: The coffee cup exceeded the altitude reached by the Norwegian donut.

Stanton’s Experience: Stanton is filled with chuckles reflecting on her time with Bubba and Ryno. “This was a very fun project because Bubba and Ryno love to laugh more than anything,” she says. “They just had a million stories, so when you get the book, you’ll just read all these funny stories.”

One of her favorite parts was a chapter focused on marketing. “Bubba and Ryno are constantly brainstorming how to sell doughnuts,” she says. “This is a really great marketing book for somebody who wants to have fun with a business and have high visibility. Their nerdiness and authenticity — I think has made them special.”

That rough patch in the business? “That chapter’s a testament to their resilience and coming out of it in a positive way, but I think that was a scary time for all the cops.”

The cops, she adds, have really big hearts for Clare. The origin story of the bakery being a prime example, but even stories throughout the book of good deeds while on police duty demonstrate their heart for the community. 

Bubba’s message: “Another reason we did the book is that it shows people that cops are people too,” Bubba says. “We’re not everything they always see on T.V. We’re just a bunch of community oriented guys that want to do good. This book is a way of explaining that and so people can understand, we’re ordinary people that want to help our community. That’s something anybody can do.”

To order the book online, go to: Cops & Doughnuts: The Amazing Story of a Police Department, a Bakery, and the Comeback of a Small Town.
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