By JANET SOWLE, Editor
When the doors of the Clare City Bakery opened on July 1, 2009 it had a new name — Cops & Doughnuts. The Clare Police Department had found out the bakery was going to close and decided to buy it. They counted on some media attention to help them get going and, of course, the jokes and snickers.
“We thought it would be like the three-headed calf or the kitten that falls down the well,” Al White, Cops & Doughnuts co-owner, said. “It’s a one-day story. We figured there would be one blip on the radar screen. We would get boost from it (and) things would settle down.”
Within the first month they realized the building didn’t give them enough room for their logo items — shirts, hats, mugs and much much more. In order to hold all of these items, they bought the vacant building to the north of the bakery, putting an arched opening between the two.
Well, now they’ve done it again. Due to the need for more kitchen space, they recently bought the building to the south of the original bakery — the former Panda Chinese Restaurant — and a large arched opening has been constructed between the two.
The need for kitchen space is due to the 12 wholesale accounts they already have plus they are expanding with two more very large wholesale accounts. One of those new wholesalers includes another bakery in Harrison, which they will fully stock every morning. Their current capacity for doughnuts is 600 dozen per day, but if they added another shift, they could easily get it over the 1,000 dozen per day mark. And that’s just doughnuts. It doesn’t include other items such as pastries and bread.
They had looked for an alternative site to make doughnuts off-site, but when the building to the south became available they bought it. So far, two new doughnut fryers have been installed.
The new space opened during the Clare Irish Festival but it was basically just for seating because it wasn’t fully functional.
“We were originally going to keep running it as a Chinese restaurant and call it Cop-suey and then we decided we don’t know anything about Chinese food,” White said with a smile. “Of course we didn’t know a lot about doughnuts except the retail end before.”
Space isn’t the only thing they’re expanding. The menu is also growing. A sign on the door and windows proudly proclaims that they now have creme pies.
“We’re going to offer cakes and pies and cupcakes — we’re going to call them copcakes,” White said. “And our own brand of Cops and Doughnuts pickles called Pursuit Pickles.”
Besides offering more seating, the space to the south — temporarily being called The Cell Block — will eventually have its own counter and retail space.
“We’re going to have lunch items and stuff in there,” White said. “We needed the kitchen space. We bought that building for the kitchen. The retail portion, what we call the front of the house, was actually an afterthought. We bought the building without knowing what we were going to do with it.”
An estimated 250,000 people visited the bakery last year with 125,000 visiting between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Business has increased 30 percent each month when compared to the same month the year before except for February 2012. That month’s increase in business was 40 percent over February 2011. More than 80 percent of their business is baked goods.
They are also becoming a major employer in Clare. They started with one full-time person and part-time employee who worked 24 hours a week. This winter they had 18 employees and they recently hired seven more in preparation for the summer. And that may not be enough.
Business doesn’t look to be slowing down. Last summer they were open weekends 24 hours a day. This summer they will open on Memorial Day and not close again until Labor Day. “There’s always somebody here,” White said. “This building is never empty. We don’t get a lot of business between 10 at night and 4 in the morning, but since they’re here anyway we just keep the door open.”
A production company was recently there filming a pilot for a reality show which, if picked up, would really increase traffic. Another expansion can’t be far behind.