Emilie Smith has been trying to keep her bakery, the Tremont Goodie Shop, afloat since the coronavirus outbreak has forced her and thousands of other local businesses to cease regular operations.
The beloved bakery, which is best known for its cinnamon sticks, is located in Upper Arlington, Ohio, and has been in her family for three generations. Now, they can only offer online to-go orders and delivery service.
On Monday, Smith received one of the biggest surprises of her life when a longtime customer called in an order for his favorite custard doughnut — and offered to pay $1,000 for the single treat.
"I couldn't talk, I was crying," Smith, who manages the bakery and co-owns it with her mother and sister, told TODAY Food. She said the customer, who preferred to remain anonymous, has been coming to the bakery for nearly 50 years and wanted to give them the entire sum from his stimulus check to help out the family-owned shop in this difficult time.
"There was silence on my end of the line. When I didn't respond he asked, 'Would that be ok?'" she recalled.
The bakery shared the news of the generous donation on its Facebook page.
"We are in tears (heart emojis) This is a custard donut for $1,000 to help keep us in business. What a blessing (heart emojis)," Smith captioned the photo.
Since many stores across the country are struggling to stay in business, the contribution has already made a huge difference to the bakery, which was opened in 1955 by Smith's grandfather. Smith said she was doing payroll on the day the phone call came in and could not be more grateful. Due to the pandemic, she's already had to scale back her staff and shorten the bakery's operating hours since the store is closed to foot traffic.
"I'm down to one baker and myself and one other person to work the pickup table," she explained. Smith said she usually employs a lot of high school students on part-time schedules, but hasn't been able to give them any hours since the new restrictions have been in place.
"Our Easter week was half the business that it normally is," she said. By the Monday after Easter, she estimated that business was down to about 25% of what it usually is this time of year. Still, Smith said many of her regular customers have done their best to keep supporting the bakery by calling in phone orders and placing orders on the website.
"We've been told before that we're an American treasure," Smith said. "The customers have our menu memorized and they call in knowing exactly what they want."
Smith said the anonymous big spender told her that he wants the bakery's custard doughnut "as part of his last meal on earth," and explained that this isn't the first time he's brought joy to people in Upper Arlington. "He's brought us pizza before, or he'll take our doughnuts over to the people who work in the pizza shop," she said.
Smith said she hopes people will continue to support small businesses like hers, even if they don't have a few hundred dollars to spare.
"You don't have to give $1,000 dollars, but if you do have the ability to carry out or order takeout, a lot of these small mom and pops really appreciate it," she said.