By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
LOUISIANA Mo. -- Shaun Ross flipped through notations in a tattered stack of coffee-stained, spiral notebooks.
Those scribbles added up to more than a million doughnuts.
Daybreak Donuts and Diner served its millionth doughnut on Jan. 30. Since the bakery opened on July 4, 2006, Ross has kept detailed records of how many doughnuts he cuts each day and what time he sells out each morning. The books show which town events have boosted his sales. The pages note the day-to-day weather for nearly seven years, and Ross tallies the storms and sunshine that alter his sales.
"I can go back to any day we've opened and tell you what we made that day," Ross said.
This diary allows Ross and his partner, Marianne Spears, to feed the Louisiana area without wasting pastries. A chalkboard noting the doughnut total changes numbers daily. This past week, the staff rolled that number past 1 million. Each day, regulars, Mississippi riverfront tourists and townspeople form a line from the old-fashioned doughnut case to the shop's door.
But only one customer could eat the millionth doughnut.
A small, hand-drawn sign reading "Welcome to Kevintown, Population 5" hangs on the wall near the shop's front window. Ross and employee Randi Ryland said the sign is just one of Daybreak regular Kevin Tarpein's many lovable quirks. The Vietnam veteran has been known to embrace his right to carry arms, and has trained the diner staff and regulars to call him "Sarge."
"He's always got something new to say," Ryland said. "It's never a boring day when Kevin's in here."
On the Wednesday the millionth doughnut was fried, Tarpein had vacated his traditional breakfast spot for medical treatment in Hannibal, Mo.
After writing "1,000,000" on the doughnut in white icing, the Daybreak staff delivered the chocolate-iced long john to the Vietnam veteran. They couldn't celebrate the milestone without Tarpein, a customer who Ross considers family.
Ross' family has fed the Louisiana area for three generations. His grandfather owned a restaurant at Fourth and Georgia streets. His grandmother once worked in a bakery.
Having been raised around food, he insists on frying pastries in an old-fashioned method.
Ross said some bakeries use premade frozen dough, but the Daybreak staff begins mixing the bread dough at 10 p.m. the night before, and the kitchen crew works until the diner opens at 5 a.m.
The number of doughnuts fried varies by day in accordance with the history in Ross' books. On slow days, the team makes fewer than 400 doughnuts. When orders are steep, the pastry count exceeds 1,000. Ross's record is 3,600.
"They're all homemade, handmade, hand-twisted and cut, it's the old-school way," Ross said.
From his books, Ross had anticipated the millionth doughnut nearly a month in advance. Still, he'd debated whether it would fall on the long john or the eagle claw tray.
The night the kitchen tally reached 1 million, Ross tracked the long john from the mixing bowl to the fryer.
Spears' son, Elijah, documented the whole process with his cellphone camera and posted a video to the diner's Facebook page for the community to see.
"I figured out exactly which one it was that I cut, and we walked it through the process and watched it," Ross said.
Ross and Spears look forward to another million doughnuts. The duo hopes eventually to expand the shop into the building next door, doubling the shop's capacity and creating a riverfront view for customers.
"I like coming out and seeing everybody have a good time and that they're enjoying it," Ross said. "It's just hospitality … All my customers are family."