By Sarah Mullins | Photography by Cara Satullo

A little girl with blonde pigtails walks into Stan the Donut Man, she hears the little bell jingle as the door opens, she smells the fresh donuts and gazes wide eyed at the display. She turns to her mom and asks if she can have a bag of donut holes and get some for her best friend, too.  

Stan the Donut man is one of the Mom and Pop donut shops that is taking part in the Butler County Donut Trail. Stan the Donut man has been in business for almost 60 years and has been a staple to the community. Mom and Pop donut shops are small, independently owned businesses that make fresh donuts by hand every day.

“I literally grew up on donuts,” says Martin “Stan” Crowe, owner of Stan the Donut Man. “My family has had a donut shop since 1960 somewhere in the world, and this is the fourth shop that we’ve had. My dad sold his other shops, so this is the one remaining shop with a Crowe in it. The shop was named after my dad, Stan Crowe.”

The Butler County Donut Trail is a string of nine donut shops that people can go to, buy donuts and get their “passport,” which was started as a Butler County Visitors Bureau (BCVB) initiative to introduce people to the county on January 20. It was thought of during one of the 2016 brainstorming sessions as a way to increase traffic and excitement about Butler County, according to eMarketing manager Kathryn Trucco.

“The Donut Trail is self guided so you can complete it at your own pace,” says Trucco. “The Donut Trail is great for anyone ages two to 92. We’ve had people from all age ranges and from all over the country completing the Donut Trail. We’ve had 12 different states represented so far in completers.”

The bakeries participating in the Donut Trail are Jupiter Coffee and Donuts, Kelly’s Bakery, Martin’s Donuts, Milton’s Donuts, Mimi’s Donuts and Bakery, Oxford Doughnut Shoppe, Ross Bakery, Stan the Donut Man and The Donut Spot. All of the shops have seen an increase in traffic since the Trail started, according to their owners. 

“Even locals don’t know we are back here, but the Donut Trail has put us on the map,” says Sherry “Mimi” Richardson, owner of Mimi’s Bakery. “[The Trail] has shown a lot of people we are here and has really increased business.”

When people go on the Donut Trail, they can print off a passport from BCVB’s website, or there are passports available at every participating donut shop. Each time someone buys a donut at one of the shops, they receive a stamp on their passport, and once all of the blanks have a stamp, they receive a t-shirt with the Donut Trail logo on the front and on the back it says, “Traveled. Found. Devoured,” which is paid for by Butler County.

“Basically folks who visit the Donut Trail travel around, eat great donuts, share stories and have a lot of fun,” says Trucco. “Once they complete the entire Trail, they come in and see us or mail their passport in and then we’ll give them the exclusive Donut Trail t-shirt.”

People can do the Donut Trail in as much time as they want—three days or three weeks—it is completely up to them. For the passports, originally there were words on a sticker in each shop that you could write down, but they were changed in March so people would have to buy donuts to get a stamp of the word. All passports with words written in had to be turned in by April 30. There is no current end date for the Donut Trail.

People are finding out about the Donut Trail in a variety of ways, whether it be a friend, the BCVB Facebook page or they wandered into a donut shop one day and picked up a passport. Mother of three Amy Brunner says that she found out about the Donut Trail when one of her friends started a Facebook page for moms so that they could all go do the Trail with their children.

The Trail is a great bonding experience for families, according to the Brunner family. Families will go spend a weekend traveling all over the county to go taste these delicious donuts and take pictures in front of all the donut shops they can find.

Even the employees of the donut shops are getting in on the action, going to all the different markers on their day off. They have their own philosophies on how to approach the Trail after seeing so many people come in after trying to hit every shop in one day.

““[The Donut Trail] started out with a big burst of people trying to do it all in one day,” says Kelly’s Bakery employee Brittany Hargis. “They would come in at the end and not want to eat any more donuts. I like to go once a week on Sundays and get multiple donuts from one place.”

Most of the donut shop owners work late hours to make sure the donuts are fresh for the morning. Working anywhere from eight at night to two in the morning, they all have a strong passion for their work.

“I just enjoy what I do,” says Terri Niederman, owner of The Donut Spot. “I’ve worked other jobs, but I really enjoy making donuts, even if it means working late hours every night, and I don’t think I will ever grow tired of doing it.”

Flash forward ten years, and that little girl that was staring wide-eyed at the fresh donuts hasn’t moved. She’s still staring at the mouth watering donuts, but now she is exploring all of the donut shops throughout the county, discovering that there are even more delicious donuts than she could have ever imagined.

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