January 23, 2008 Edition

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Daylight Donuts has
sweet memories for Deese

Gloria Wilkerson
TD Staff

Waking up at 2:30 a.m. and being at work by 3:30 in the morning have been a part of Rochelle Deese's life for 30 years. Her Daylight Donuts business, which opened at 5:30 a.m. daily, is now in the hands of new owners, and she is able to sleep a little later these days.

Deese began working in the doughnut shop, owned by her brother, Keith Marlin, from noon till 9 p.m. while she was still a senior in high school in 1977. After graduation, she, Keith and their mother, the late Imogene (Mrs. Carl) Marlin, worked full-time in the shop, which was located on West Main Street back then. Deese's and Marlin's sisters, Vivian Pruett and Kathy Bennett, also worked part-time. The doughnut shop has truly been a family business.

For 23 years the shop remained at its original location. Then, the owner of the building died and the family sold the building.

The business moved to its current location at 941West Free Street when Deese bought the business from Marlin in June of 2000 after he decided he didn't want to relocate.

The building she bought had belonged to a local church. Deese had it remodeled by Leroy Deese to fit her needs and opened for business, and she and Pruett ran it from day one. Deese's niece,Whitney Davis, also worked part-time.

"We had to be get up at 2:30 in the morning and be at the shop by 3:30 in order to open at 5:30," Deese said. "We had to go to bed between 7 and 9 at night in order to be able to go to work the next day."

According to Deese, making their doughnuts is a two-hour process. The job involves adding water and yeast to the doughnut mix, rolling them out and cutting them by hand, proofing them, which lets them rise, and then frying and glazing or icing them.

We have been told that we make the best doughnuts in the country," she said. "We had customers from Pocahontas and other areas that told us we did."

Their customers have been loyal and some have become like family to them. "We had customers who would help us out when we got really busy and needed a little extra help," Deese said. "Some of our customers came in just to visit with my dad. Many became lifelong friends.

"We had kids who came in with their parents almost every day, and the next thing we knew they were driving the car when they came to our drive-thru window. We watched them grow up and considered them our kids."

She said she is often called "the donut shop lady" by little kids when they see her in the grocery store or out shopping."

Deese does, however, remember one scare the sisters had in the wee hours of the morning as they began work. "Before daylight we noticed two men crossing the street, and then they tried to get into the shop, which obviously wasn't yet open for the day."

The sisters called the police. Officers found one of the men hiding in the bushes and the men's car hidden across the street behind Joseph's Apartments. The police told the sisters the men had intended to rob them.

"We had city police officers who would check on us and make sure we were alright," she said. "We had a captain of the Arkansas Highway Police who came in every day."

"Being with our customers, men and women we see every day, is what I will miss," Deese said. "They are almost like family. We've seen a lot of them come and go and miss them when they're gone."

"I would like to thank all our customers for their support and friendship over the years and hope they will continue to support the new owners as well," Deese added.

The new owners are Wendell Jones and Lorraine Doane. Jones, who also owns Arkansas Excellent Transport ambulance service, said he bought the privately owned franchise and shop because he didn't want to see it close.

"It was a good investment, an already established good business. I was afraid Rochelle would sell the building and we'd lose the city's doughnut shop," Jones said.

The doughnut shop currently opens at 6:15 a.m. and closes at 11 a.m. The new owners are looking to add breakfast sandwiches and a variety of doughnuts to their menu in the future.

Deese is currently taking a break but plans to go back to work soon; she isn't sure where right now but would like to do substitute teaching. She said 30 years of early morning shifts is why she decided to sell her business.

"I'll miss working with my sister and family, but I will not miss getting up so early," she said.

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