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‘Almost retro appeal’: New owners revive Severna Park Donut Shack with 24-hour service and Ceremony Coffee

(LtoR) - Prior to their Grand Re-Opening on February 29, Donut Shack's new managing partner Ben Hilliard and owner/operator Ali Matthews relax at a counter visited by Severna Park families for more than three decades. They've kept the shop as it was when owned by Bill and Stacey Prevezanos but enhanced its retro feel with the addition of a wall-sized photo of downtown Severna Park circa the mid 1950's. Photo by Sharon Lee Tegler, Correspondent
(LtoR) - Prior to their Grand Re-Opening on February 29, Donut Shack's new managing partner Ben Hilliard and owner/operator Ali Matthews relax at a counter visited by Severna Park families for more than three decades. They've kept the shop as it was when owned by Bill and Stacey Prevezanos but enhanced its retro feel with the addition of a wall-sized photo of downtown Severna Park circa the mid 1950's. Photo by Sharon Lee Tegler, Correspondent (Sharon Lee Tegler)

Hard at work last week behind brown paper covered windows, new owners were preparing for the grand reopening of Severna Park’s much loved Donut Shack. Local families couldn’t be more excited.

Original owners Bill and Stacey Prevezanos operated the family business, at 497 Ritchie Highway, for 34 years before selling the shop in the summer of 2019. Shortly thereafter, it reopened under different owners but closed within months.

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Hoping to bring back the warm, friendly Donut Shack with the delicious donuts, muffins and pastries everyone so fondly remembers, new owner/operator Ali Matthews, managing partner Ben Hilliard partnered with other small business owners to purchase, revitalize and restore the shop to its former glory.

“One partner came to Donut Shack with his family often as an 8-year-old kid,” Hilliard said.

Hilliard had hoped to buy the business when it was first for sale with plans to bring Matthews in as a restaurant professional. However, the asking price was too high for him then. When it came back on the market in January, Matthews was in a position to buy it with help from the other partners.

Matthews has worked in the restaurant business since she was 15 at some local establishments including Riordan’s in downtown Annapolis and Davis’ Pub in Eastport where’s she’s been popular with customers.

“I’ve done everything there is to do in a restaurant, from working the back of the house to working the front of the house to being manager,” she said. “But I’ve never worked in a baking kitchen before or run a place as unique as this.”

Hilliard, a certified public accountant, pointed out that all the partners have young children.

“Part of the appeal of reopening the shop is so our children can grow up experiencing what we did and possibly work here when they’re older,” he said.

Taking over the Donut Shack has been a challenge. The partners worry about upholding expectations to restore the shop’s integrity, and live up to its reputation by retaining the things that made it so special.

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Matthews admits it’s like starting from scratch. They’ve rehired long-time employees who were part of the shop’s success but were let go by the interim owners. They’ve followed the Prevezanos’ example of hiring high school students. But recreating the donuts is another matter altogether.

“With Bill and Stacey’s help and blessing, we’re slowly learning the recipes they created when they purchased the shop in 1985,” said Matthews. “We hope to reward their confidence in us because this shop was their baby and what happened to it was heartbreaking.”

When they took over, there was a lot of maintenance that needed to be done. However, the partners were determined to embrace what made the shop a classic and celebrate its “almost retro appeal.”

They briefly pondered whether to change out counter seating for booths but decided the counters – laid out facing each other – are the very things that give the Donut Shack its welcoming, comfortable atmosphere.

They also decided to enhance the retro feel with enlargements of mid-20th century photographs from the collection of historian Scott Jay including a image that stretches across a wall of “downtown” Severna Park as it appeared in the late 1950s.

Another way they’ll keep tradition alive is by staying open 24 hours a day. Donut Shack’s reputation as a safe, after hours place meant Severna Park teens usually met there following school dances or football games while adults stopped by for after concert coffee.

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Considered a favorite family haunt, the shop is even mentioned in a children’s book called “Hailey & Holly's Maryland Adventure Week” by author Rebecca McClay and her illustrator mother Laura McClay.

Rebecca fondly remembers the fun she had as a little girl sitting around the counter with her parents and brother on Sunday mornings nibbling her favorite pink donuts. Those pink donuts will shortly be on the shelves.

“Menu-wise, we’ll stick to donuts, pastries and muffins for the time being before making any additions,” Hilliard said. “Making donuts is an arduous task and Bill Prevezanos was amazing when it came to pounding out tremendous volumes and varieties of them. Even with his tutelage, we’re wondering if we’ll be able to produce similar amounts at first. It may take a while to get in the groove.”

He added that the shop is partnering with Ceremony Coffee Roasters of Annapolis and other beverages will be available.

On Feb. 29, the Grand Re-Opening of Donut Shack will be held beginning with a 9 a.m. ribbon cutting celebration by the Greater Severna Park & Arnold Chamber of Commerce.

Matthews believes friends will stop by for a secret tasting but also harbors a suspicion that “the moment the brown paper comes off the windows; we’ll have people lining up at the door.” Follow Donut Shack at www.facebook.com/Donut-Shack.

Email your Severna Park news to Sharon Lee Tegler at wingsorb@aol.com. Follow her on twitter and Facebook @SharonLeeSays

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