SEAL BEACH, Calif. – For almost 30 years, John Chhan and his wife, Stella, ran the Donut City shop in Seal Beach, California, a constant, reassuring part of countless customers' lives.
But now the hard-working couple is facing a medical crisis, and their patrons are returning the sweetness.
Since Stella suffered a brain aneurysm last month, John has longed to spend as much time as he can with her.
"She's in a nursing home," Chhan said. " My sister-in-law is here helping me."
With a business to run and bills to pay, the doughnuts still have to roll. Chhan thought he would have to spend most of his time working at the doughnut shop -- away from his wife.
But when customers learned about the Chhans' situation, they opened their hearts -- and their mouths -- wide.
Time to buy the doughnuts
Every morning, beginning at 4:30, customers flock to the doughnut shop. They buy up all the glazed, all the frosted. They drink up the coffee as they hand over their cash and their love.
By 7:30 the bins are empty. Chhan's heart is full.
"It is heartbreaking to hear her misfortune," regular Steven O'Fallon says of the woman who has been making him doughnuts for his entire life. "She was always in the back making doughnuts."
"I would drop by there with my mom and dad in the mornings before school. John would always toss a few extra doughnut holes. He always has a smile on his face."
O'Fallon and the other customers say they are simply giving back the good cheer the Chhans handed out over the decades.
"Every Sunday for 20 years, we've been purchasing doughnuts," said Jenee Rogers, another long-time customer. "It's one of the few things that's still here. He makes them fresh and brings them right there in the mornings. It's a real American dream for them."
The Chhans have worked hard for their piece of the dream on their own, and specifically asked that no crowdfunding sites be set up on their behalf. So, the customers decided to do what they've always done, just a little earlier in the morning: head to the Chhan's shop, buy the doughnuts and spread the sweetness.
"I am very appreciative," Chhan said.