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In 2008, nine police officers from the northern Michigan city of Clare banded together to buy a 113-year-old local bakery that was in danger of closing. The officers, essentially the city’s entire police force, renamed it Cops & Doughnuts, and the jokes practically wrote themselves. But then something remarkable happened.
“They took something that had been part of the community for so long and developed a whole new concept around it,” said Heidi Williams, technology and information supervisor for the East Lansing Police Department. “They created something that was unique to the area and unique as a business model — a business that was run by police officers that was focused on charity and community development.”
And it caught on. Those nine officers spun the success of that first Cops & Doughnuts store into six other locations in northern and west Michigan, ingraining themselves into the communities as they went. And in May, the first franchised version — Cops & Doughnuts Capital Precinct — will be coming to Lansing’s west side courtesy. Williams and her wife, retired Lansing Police Department detective Michelle Bryant.
“Police officers are so used to dealing with people at their worst, but this is a way to turn that around,” Bryant said. “This is all about fun, and it’s also a way to give back to local police charities and support the military. We’re going to be very active in the community, which is a big part of why we’re getting into this.”
This will be the first non police-related business for either Williams or Bryant, but neither seems too concerned about launching a new career at this stage in their lives. In fact, for Bryant, the new career has a hidden perk.
“In my experience as an officer, you spend more time with your police family than with your real family,” she said. “I thought it would be tough to retire and be done, but this is a good way to stay involved with my old work friends and to be able to interact with the community in a positive way. That really resonated for me.”
Williams and Bryant are setting up shop at 6427 Centurion Drive, a location that’s been known as a community gathering place for nearly two decades. The storefront was former home to Coffee Jam, which owner Shelby Wielock closed two years ago after a successful 16-year run. A different owner tried to make a go of it for a year, but Coffee Jam permanently closed late last year.
“Shelby’s specialty was kindness,” Williams said. “Coffee Jam was something that was like a second home to a lot of people, and when that went away, it really affected them. Hopefully we can bring that back and build on that foundation, with a safe, friendly place with good food, good coffee and good friendship.”
“Actually, cops prefer coffee that’s been sitting on a burner for six hours,” Bryant deadpanned. “It’s what we’re used to – cops don’t do foo-foo coffee. But even though we know that doughnuts go better with bad coffee, we won’t do that to our customers.”
Cops & Doughnuts Capital Precinct will have three coffee blends specially made at downtown Lansing’s Paramount Coffee: Day Shift (light blend), Night Shift (dark blend) and an Off Duty blend (decaf). Specialty pastries will include the Felony Fritter (“as big as your head”), the Squealer (a maple syrup and bacon long john) and the Love Me Tender (made with peanut butter and bananas). Williams said she thinks the store will go through about 100 dozen doughnuts a day, all of which will be made fresh daily at the Clare location and driven an hour and half down U.S. 127 early each morning.
“Even if there’s a blizzard, the doughnuts will always arrive,” Bryant said. “And we’re already getting orders. People have started sticking their heads in everyday while we’re doing our construction work asking when we’re going to open. We know there’s a demand.”
Williams and Bryant have given the interior a fresh coat of blue paint, including a “thin blue line” that runs the entire length of the store. There will be a mug shot area where customers can take their photos, a mock jail cell and a merchandise area. A section of the wall will feature police patches from other precincts, as well as local police-themed photos and memorabilia. Williams said she’s hoping for a May 8 soft opening, with a grand opening scheduled for late summer that may double as a familyfriendly touch-a-truck event.
“Coffee Jam had a vibe that wasn’t too different from the original Cops & Doughnuts location in Clare, so this seems like a perfect fit,” Williams said. “Our goal is for this to be a kid-friendly place where people will want to come every day. And hopefully, our little cell in the corner will be the only jail your kid will end up in.”
More of a Ruckus
The Eastside Neighborhood ramen shop Ruckus Ramen is expanding its hours starting today. The year-old business, located inside the Avenue Café, 2021 E. Michigan Ave., will now be open from 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Friday, with Saturday hours set at 3-11 p.m. Lunch specials will start next week.
“People have been asking us about daytime hours since we opened, but over the last few months there’s been an increased demand,” said owner/operator Steve “DJ Ruckus” Swart. “We’ve been talking about it for a while, but decided last week to jump in. And business has been great – this winter has been wonderful. It is ramen season, after all.”
Ruckus Ramen (inside the Avenue Café) 2021 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Friday; 3-11 p.m. Saturday (517) 999-7549, ruckusramen.com