Sweet process: Donut shop owners make fresh pastry creations

BECKLEY, W.Va.— For 38 years, curious customers of the Donut Connection on Robert C. Byrd Drive in Beckley have peeked through a small window, catching a glimpse of Paul and Lynn Plumley as they’ve mixed, kneaded, deep-fried, glazed, frosted and sprinkled delicious pastry creations.

“We’ve watched kids grow up through that window,” Paul said, gliding a rolling pin across one of 15 cuts made from 80 pounds of freshly made yeast donut mix.

“And now we’re watching their kids grow up,” Lynn added, shaking her in disbelief.

The Plumleys, both Beckley natives, started their donut venture in 1979, buying a former Sunoco station and transforming it into a Dunkin’ Donuts.

“This was an up and coming new thing, — donuts — and we found Dunkin’,” Lynn explained. “So we decided to put it in here and we went to donut school. Yes, there’s actually a donut school.”

In 1995, in response to a shift in the Dunkin’ Donuts business model, the couple decided to leave the franchise and instead became part of a co-op — consisting mostly of former Dunkin’ franchises — known as the Donut Connection.

Among the biggest complaints, Paul, said, was that their former franchise moved to a frozen product. The Plumleys wanted to keep pushing out freshly made donuts every day.

“We think handmade is better,” Paul said. “But, in the industry, frozen is the way to go because of the labor. This is hard work.

“This is a skill,” he said, cutting out the centers of soon to be yeast donuts. It’s a dying skill.”

As part of the Donut Connection, the Plumleys are free to take on large specialty orders and create and sell whatever they’re imaginations conjure up.

“We mostly made the basics,” Lynn said of the beginnings of the business. “Just 20 different kinds.”

Now they make everything from powdered and glazed — still the favorite — to S’mores, Reese’s and donuts for every holiday from Valentine’s Day to Christmas.

Their coffee has a large following — like Michelle Randall, who stopped in one recent morning and visits at least twice a day — but the Plumleys say the donuts and their friendly service are what keeps people coming back.

“We know who people are, what they do, where they go,” Lynn said. “We talk to you every morning. It makes a difference. We might not know your names, but we know you.”

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Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at tbarker@woay.com