BUCKHANNON – Throngs of people waited in line and in their cars Thursday afternoon for what might be their last chance to enjoy a strawberry-filled pastry or cheesy pepperoni roll from a beloved Buckhannon institution: The Donut Shop.
Nestled unassumingly near the train tracks on North Locus Street, the restaurant emblazoned with six large orange letters – Donuts – has long been a sweet staple in Upshur County. As rumors swirled Thursday of its impending closure, longtime customers circled the restaurant for one last treat.
The drive-through line stretched down the main road and the parking lot was full Thursday afternoon. Inside, the Donut Shop was buzzing with bakers, employees and patrons as the donuts flew off the shelves faster than they could be replenished. Customers periodically returned to the shop throughout the day to see which donuts might be available and maybe even snag a pepperoni roll.
As he waited in line, James Elmore said he’s been coming to the Donut Shop for decades.
“I like a little bit of everything, but they have the best coffee, probably in the country,” Elmore said. “I was hoping to get a cup of coffee and a box of donuts, but I don’t think they have any donuts right now.”
Throughout the day, loyal customers and former employees posted their favorite memories from the Donut Shop on the My Buckhannon Facebook page.
“This was my first full-time job at 17,” Kelly Sayre wrote. “I worked there the summer before I went to college to buy my laptop, and then again that winter. I had some of the best shifts of my life in that shop and met some great people that I’ll cherish for life! It’ll always be my favorite job.”
The donuts were powdered, glazed, frosted, sprinkled and filled with a menagerie of fun and tasty flavors. The pepperoni rolls – with ground pepperoni, of course — were favored by foodies far and wide, while the ramparoni rolls were a local favorite.
“I have had so much fun in that place,” Cindy Dolan recalled. “Favorite place to go after a night out! Best pepperoni rolls! Best biscuits and gravy! No other donut will ever compare. I’ve had quite a few memorable conversations and visits in that little shop. What a staple in this community!”
If the Donut Shop does close for good, it will mark the end of a four-decade run. The diner-like atmosphere and 24-hour, year-round service (except for Christmas Day) became as legendary as the food itself, with generations of Upshur County families casually settling into the orange booths for a pepperoni roll or chatting with employees while drinking a cup of coffee at the counter.
West Virginia Wesleyan College students hankering for a late-night snack were also fond of the Donut Shop, where they could be found laughing and chatting into the wee hours of the morning, when the regulars would begin to filter in.
One local woman recalled how the Donut Shop came to the rescue of a tired mom early one morning.
“My one-year-old had been up all night long, and at 4 a.m., he was ready to be up for the day,” Breanna Kimble said. “I was so exhausted, I just wanted some peace, so I loaded him up and drove 30 minutes to town to the Donut Shop for a donut and coffee. [It was] the only place open in town and my saving grace that morning for an exhausted mama. My heart breaks for the town; my girls always count on a donut once a week from our favorite place.”
Even out-of-town residents would often take a detour to Buckhannon for a donut or two. Grafton resident Shannon Joyce said the Donut Shop is a frequent stop when her family is in town.
“I love the glazed donuts, the chocolate iced rings and especially the pepperoni rolls — these are the best donuts and pepperoni rolls around,” Joyce said as she waited in line Thursday. “Every time we come to Buckhannon, we have to stop here. We’re from Grafton — I used to live in Buckhannon years ago and my parents are from here. Every time we are anywhere close, we stop by.”
The potential closure itself remains something of a mystery. Rumors began circulating on social media earlier this week that the Donut Shop would close Saturday, but other comments quickly debunked those speculations as untrue.
On Thursday, both local TV stations reported that the Donut Shop would close permanently this weekend, although neither cited a named source, instead referencing only unnamed employees.
Inside the small diner, the manager on duty Thursday afternoon was bustling to keep up with demand and would not speak to either the local newspaper or a My Buckhannon reporter who stopped by the store Thursday and reached out by cell phone in an attempt to confirm the rumors and gather more information about the nature of the closure. The out-of-state owners also did not respond to phone and email inquiries from My Buckhannon.
According to an obituary from Poling-St. Clair Funeral Home, Richard Comegys was the owner and operator of the Donut Shop until his death in 2013 at the age of 64. His brothers, John and George Comegys, now own the business, according to state business records. Both of their addresses are listed in Maryland.
The property itself is owned by Sherree Martin, who declined to comment when reached by phone on Thursday.
“I can’t say anything or give any information at this time,” Martin told My Buckhannon.
Late Thursday night, Delegate Carl “Robbie” Martin, Senator Patrick Martin and Mayor Robbie Skinner said on social media they hope the Donut Shop could stay open, although they did not provide any specifics on how that might happen.
The closure would be the latest in a string of popular restaurants permanently shuttering across North-Central West Virginia. Earlier this week, the Hickory House in Lewis County announced it would close for good after 18 years, while the more contemporary World’s End in Buckhannon also shut its doors for good this fall. In Elkins, both 1863 Appalachian Bistro and Duke’s Steakhouse are closing, although Duke’s is looking for a new location, according to its Facebook page.
UPDATE: Read the latest update on the Donut Shop here.