William Thien

A Sunday Donut No More

Posted on: September 4, 2011

Last Sunday while returning from a jaunt to the sporting goods store with a friend we took a little diversion to stop by the local donut shop to pick up some of the best bakery ever made. Upon arriving we discovered the store had closed and was replaced by a dollar store. I was admittedly angry at first. I had my hopes up in anticipation of a couple of the best donuts you could ever eat. All varieties. Fresh. Real. Satisfying. Not that greasy, sticky, icing slathered type of donut you find at the gas station. These were works of art, made by real bakers, guys and gals with rosy cheeks and smiling faces who went to work in the early hours of the morning so we could have fresh bakery.

As we drove away I pondered the reason for the closure of the bakery. How could that donut shop have closed? They made the best donuts. People used to line up in the morning twenty back for their donuts. People used to argue over their number in line when certain types of donuts ran low and they thought it would be too late by the time their number was called to get the donuts they came to buy. At the end of the day, only crumbs remained on the large silver trays where the donuts were displayed behind the glass.

“How,” I asked again, “how could they have gone out of business?” We talked about the reasons. We stopped at a gas station a couple of blocks away to see if someone knew if they had moved? “No,” the clerk said, “they closed shop because they couldn’t afford to do it anymore.”

Then something occurred to me. They were master bakers. Craftsmen at their trade. Specialists. Artists. Dinosaurs. They don’t exist much anymore. You don’t find those types of people making things hardly in this day and age. “But why?” I asked. We bought some greasy gas station donuts and stale coffee and continued the ride home.

It occurred to me as it has before that business isn’t run like it once was.

More emphasis is put on tax strategy and cutting costs today than it is on making quality products that will bring customers back for more.

Inflation has increased the cost of everything while large corporate retailers have kept their prices low, forcing the little guy out of the marketplace. And quality suffers as a result. And as a result, due to these same forces, American products are now being forced out of the marketplace by low quality foreign products because they can be offered for less. All of this is a function of US tax policy and government regulation. Businesses are now run by business school graduates (bean counters) and not craftsmen, specialists, artists, people who know how to make and manufacture quality products. If you know tax law, you are more in shape to run a business than if you know how to make something and make it well. That shouldn’t be. And what’s worse, schools are dropping all of their trade and manufacturing classes in favor of business classes. More bean counters and less makers. That’s not good.

There is not much anyone can do about the devastating trend except patronize the small business. But even then, when the aforementioned bakery had a large customer base and was always busy and always sold all of their product, daily, and it wasn’t exactly cheap, they still couldn’t afford to keep their doors open, well that tells you we are in for trouble as an economy. We need to change tax policy in favor of such businesses, not just the large corporate retailers. And we need to do it for just one reason.

Quality.

Because at the very least, I for one like a quality donut on Sunday morning. And I think that’s as good a place as any for America to regain its reputation as a maker of quality products. Call me a donut eater, but I do like a good donut on Sunday morning.

Copyright © William Thien 2011

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