This is a story about swimming and doughnuts. It might be the first time those two topics have combined as the key elements in my writing about local people and places over the past four decades.
But when a local swim teacher has a favorite doughnut shop that he believes everyone should know about, it gets the wheels in motion for getting this news out.
Let’s start with the ongoing building of the new Dunkin’ store on East State Street in Geneva. It still hasn’t opened. But that’s not the doughnut shop we’re concerned with here.
The patrons of the Fresh Donuts store at 1188 E. State St. have raved about this shop, hoping it doesn’t get forgotten in the doughnut shake-up when Dunkin’ opens.
That’s where the swim coach comes into play.
Pete Leonard of St. Charles has moved into his mother Joan’s house after her passing and has kept swimming lessons going at the pool there. It continues a decades-long legacy Joan left behind as a swimming instructor.
Pete happens to love the doughnuts at Fresh Donuts and, at the same time, enjoys teaching the children of Fresh Donuts owners Sonita Chheng and her husband, Sokhuoch, known more commonly as “Kim.”
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Leonard shared the story of the Chhengs, noting Kim came to the U.S. from Cambodia in 2005 to live with an aunt in the Chicago area and work in a factory. A year later, his wife, Sonita, joined Kim, and they both worked in the factory for five years.
They eventually moved to Houston and learned the bakery trade by working in a doughnut shop. They eventually returned to the Chicago suburbs, landing in Geneva, where they have operated Fresh Donuts for the past seven years.
Sonita Chheng and her husband, Sokhuoch, known as “Kim,” opened Fresh Donuts seven years ago after learning the bakery trade by working in a doughnut shop in Houston. – Courtesy of Dave Heun
I stopped at Fresh Donuts last week and asked Kim if he felt another doughnut shop opening on the east side of town would hurt his business.
This is a fellow who keeps his answers brief. But he knows his business and his customer base.
“I’m not worried about that,” he said. When asked if he was confident his customers would remain loyal to his doughnuts, bagels and egg sandwiches, he just nodded yes.
Kim and Sonita are busy making doughnuts at 2 a.m. each day, preparing for the 5 a.m. opening daily. Fresh Donuts stays open until 3 p.m.
It seems likely they won’t have to worry about losing too much business if all of their customers feel the same way as Pete Leonard.
“This past Sunday, on my way to the shop, I realized I didn’t have my wallet,” Leonard said. “With not even enough change in my car for a doughnut, I went in anyway in hopes of making a deal to square up when they came for the next swim lesson.”
Not only was that OK with the Chhengs, Leonard said he was having trouble getting them to take payment from him for doughnuts the first few times he came in the store.
“The quality and love they put into this shop justify any loyalty they get from customers,” Leonard said. “I would recommend their doughnuts over any, anywhere else, any day.”
Social media feedback about Fresh Donuts has been positive for some time, so it seems they should be able to survive a Dunkin’ invasion.
Unfortunately, doughnuts are on a list of foods that my stomach generally reminds me I probably should avoid. I like doughnuts, so I buy them, though I usually eat only small pieces of one for a day or two.
The iced cake doughnuts from Fresh Donuts were quite good. I can see why the Chhengs may not be too concerned about losing a lot of business to competitors.
Word-of-mouth remains a valuable tool for small businesses, and the words are generally quite good for this hardworking couple that chose Geneva to chase their American dream.
For flag monument
The Fox Valley Patriotic Organization hosts a Flags and Flannel event from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 13, at Wilson and Water streets in Batavia.
Information about the advance purchase of the $100 ticket that benefits The Flag Day Monument project in Batavia is available at flagdaymonument.com.
Organizers call it an opportunity to experience the best of our local breweries — Riverlands Brewing Company, Penrose Brewing Company, 93 Octane Brewery, Brother Chimp Brewing, Energy City Brewing, Pollyanna Brewing and Distilling and Art History Brewing.
Craft beer, a live auction, steak dinner and live music by BeCo and InFunktious will be part of the evening.
Plenty of beef coming
With my mouth watering at the prospect of it all, Beef Shack has confirmed its plans to open six new stores throughout the area in the coming year.
Area residents got used to the “Cheezy Beef” sandwiches that came out of the small Beef Shack operation on West Main Street for the past several years. Any news that this tasty fare might somehow resurrect itself is welcome indeed.
When Beef Shack closed early last year, CEO Daniel Perillo said his beef operation would be back in St. Charles in the future. Good to his word, the company sent out a notice this week that a new Beef Shack will open at 2015 W. Main St., a nice corner location at Randall Road that is just a few parcels west of where the previous store operated.
Beef Shack fans can also count on a new store soon in Elgin at 2300 N. Randall Road.
DeKalb, Huntley, Bartlett and Joliet are other towns earmarked for a new Beef Shack in the future.
The tower debate
It wasn’t going to get big, or maybe even small, headlines in the newspaper. It created a minor stir on social media channels, but what doesn’t do that?
But the reality is a group of Eagle Brook residents in Geneva protested the proposed placement of yet another cell tower in their neighborhood, one that would tower nearly 100 feet high and less than 500 feet from several of the homes.
You can’t drive anywhere without seeing cell towers these days, so one can only hope that future technology will somehow make these things less critical to a network.
In this particular case, my neighbors near the planned tower site did incredible research to present to the plan commission. It was clear this tower would be far too close to homes in a side parking lot near the Ashley Furniture store. Still, it’s always good to provide commissioners with facts and figures about signal power, network technology and alternative locations.
In this case, the plan commission voted against the Verizon tower proposal and its siting agent Dolan Realty Advisors LLC.
Wisely, Dolan decided not to take the fight to the city council and instead will likely seek a more suitable location for the tower.
It would be easy to view this as the little guys going up against and beating the big, bad Verizon. It might have some of those storylines, but while Verizon may be big, it would be wrong to tag the company as bad.
First, it does make the powerful cellphone and wireless worlds we enjoy all possible. Second, those in the fraud prevention world know how much time and effort Verizon researchers put into keeping all of us as safe as possible from breaches.
The annual Verizon fraud reports are looked upon as key documents in the security industry.
Still, the company needs to be careful about where to place cell towers and should operate on the automatic premise that no one likes looking at one right next to their home.