We all have a favorite restaurant or coffee shop that we enjoy spending time in. You know the places that we’re talking about. The barista that remembers you prefer almond milk in your coffee, or that shop owner that asks about your mother every time you check out. These are the types of establishments that really make a difference to their customers. This next story is about that but with a twist.Like many others, John and Stella Chhan came to the United States from Cambodia as refugees in 1979. Ten years later, they made the wise decision to purchase a business. As hardworking citizens, the Chhans showed up to work well before the sunrise kissed the sky and they rarely took a day off from their duties.
The couple ended up finding a place to settle down in California. They moved to a beachside community between Long Beach and Huntington Beach called Seal Beach. About a year after moving, Stella and John opened up a business right along the Pacific Coast Highway, in hopes that beachgoers liked donuts enough to wander into their sweet store.
The Chhans opened up a donut bakery that they named Donut City. They figured that it would be a solid business investment, especially considering how much Americans enjoyed their sweets. It wouldn’t take long for the donut shop to prove that it was a very wise investment for the Chhans.
John and Stella Chhan, along with the occasional help of their two sons, did everything themselves. They made the donuts, bagels, muffins, and croissants, packaged them, cleaned the floors, refilled the donut trays, and worked the register. And they always did it with a smile on their faces and a friendly welcome to each of their customers. Eventually, though, the customers began to notice that something had changed with the Chhans.
All of a sudden, John was the only one doing all the work in the shop. None of the customers had seen Stella behind the counter. Was she away on a vacation? Or did something happen to the happy couple’s relationship? Everyone was confused as to where their favorite donut shop owner had run off to.
It wasn’t long before the truth about Stella’s whereabouts had reached the customers. Stella had suffered from a brain aneurysm. Sadly, her health was quickly declining and she was under constant medical attention. Of course, that meant that Stella couldn’t work in the donut shop anymore.
Because John was the only one able to work, the amount of work he had to do obviously increased. Which meant that John was spending way more time at the donut shop than he was at home with his sick wife.
Donut City is a favorite stop of many people in the Seal Beach area, and most of them had grown very fond of John and Stella over the years. For some, a visit to Donut City was a tradition. One woman told Los Angeles Times that she brought her grandchildren there since they were little boys. “They’ve been in strollers, walking or riding their bikes, We’d go for doughnuts and orange juice. That’s what they remember,” she said.
“We have watched them work extremely hard to keep their doors open and support their family. We will always support them, even more so in their time of need,” said customer Marc Loopesko. Loopesko has been a customer of Donut City for 18 years.
Many others expressed the same feeling. A regular customer, Steven O’Falloon, said that it was “heartbreaking to hear of Stella Chhan’s misfortune.” The entire community was devasted by Stella and John’s situation, so they wanted to do something to repay the Chhans for their many years of kindness
Someone had offered to start a GoFundMe account to collect donations for the Chhans, but the Chhans weren’t comfortable with the idea of accepting donations. That was when the plan of purchasing donuts in bulk was born. It was posted on the neighborhood social media site, Nextdoor. The plan quickly spread throughout the community.
From then on, a crowd gathered at the store for glazed donuts, muffins, and other sweets. People of all ages and professions showed up to buy treats; maintenance workers, teachers, accountants, parents, and children came to support the Chhans by buying an entire dozen of donuts. It didn’t matter if they needed all of the donuts or not, they just wanted to do whatever it took to help out their favorite donut shop owners. And some of those that didn’t want all of their donuts gave them away to the homeless.
Thanks to his amazing customers, John was usually sold out of donuts by noon! For most business owners, having a store full of empty shelves would mean poor business or a public crisis, but for John, having empty shelves was most certainly a blessing.
The store selling out of donuts every day was definitely great for the Chhan’s financial status, but it was even better for Stella. John was able to go home and spend time caring for Stella. He needed to be there for her as much as he could.
When word got out that the customers were coming together for the Chhans, a ripple effect of support and kindness spread throughout the entire community of Seal Beach. Even radio and TV personality, Ryan Seacrest, decided that he wanted to buy out all of the donuts at Chhans. So, accompanied by On-Air and the KIIS FM local street team, Ryan headed to the shop early in the morning on November, 6th. But when they got there, Chhan had already sold out of all of his donuts!
John was consumed by emotion. Not only was he beyond grateful for the support, but he was excited by it, as well. “I feel very warm. I can just say, ‘Thank you very much,'” John said. “I appreciate so many people supporting us. Amazing. We wish we can thank everyone over and over. I don’t know what else to say.”
And what about the missing owner of the Donut Shop? Well, she’s recovering slowly, but surely. “She can talk, she can write. Right now she’s trying to start eating something,” John explained about his wife’s condition in November. Without a doubt, John is just eager to have his partner by his side in Donut City again.