Small business owners John and Stella Chhan have been running Donut City in Seal Beach, California, for almost three decades. The married couple didn’t miss a day of work, serving customers with doughnuts, muffins, and cinnamon rolls every morning with huge smiles on their faces.
So when their loyal patrons noticed that the husband-and-wife team seemed to be missing a member – Stella – they began to worry. When they asked John about her, he revealed that Stella had suffered from a brain aneurysm and was recovering in a nursing home.
On September 22, 2018, during a wedding party, Stella suddenly felt dizzy and disoriented. John took her to the hospital and a brain scan revealed a bulging artery. For the next two weeks, the once energetic Stella was in a sleep-like state. She also lost her ability to communicate.
Since Stella was hospitalized, her sister, Sharon Tam, often comes to the store to help. John goes to the Donut City a little past 4:30 in the morning to prepare. Once all the bread has sold out, John would close the shop to spend time with Stella.
Some members of their community offered to give financial help and set up a GoFundMe for Stella, but John politely refused them all, saying that they have enough money. So, one of their long-time customers, Dawn Caviola, thought of another way to help.
“Days went by and I just couldn’t get it out of my head,” she said. “So I thought, if enough people would buy a dozen doughnuts every morning, he could close early and go be with his wife.”
Dawn shared her idea on the neighborhood networking site Nextdoor and the response was immediate. Customers flocked to the store early in the morning to buy dozens of donuts. Since the word got out, John’s goods were sold out by noon, allowing him to close earlier than usual to be with his wife.
Now, about a year later, Stella is back behind the counter, much to the delight of patrons who missed the small business owner’s kindness.
“She brings smiles to everyone’s faces, and they’re just super loving people,” said one of their customers, Michael Pless. After a year of recovery, Stella says that she is now stronger. “I can hold a tray,” she said. “I need to move. I don’t want to stay home.”
Stella said that all the support they received helped her get better. No, the small business owners are serving customers again as a team, the only difference this time is that Stella and John serve them with a special affection knowing how much the community has done for them.
“I feel grateful,” Stella said. “They give me a hug. I’m so happy.”
Watch the video below to learn more about John and Stella and their community’s incredible show of support.
The people at Seal Beach, California missed having Stella in their favorite doughnut shop and for sure, they all feel glad and relieved now that she’s back!