When one of the owners of a Southern California doughnut shop had a brain aneurysm and was in a coma, the small surf town came together to help the business. Now, about a year later, Stella Chhan is back behind the counter at Donut City, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports.
For nearly 30 years, Stella and her husband John have been a team selling sweet treats at the shop in Seal Beach, California.
“She brings smiles to everyone’s faces, and they’re just super loving people,” said customer Michael Pless.
Last year there was doubt Stella would survive, let alone return to work, after a debilitating brain aneurysm left her partially paralyzed and unable to speak.
Now, she said, she is stronger. “I can hold a tray,” she said. “I need to move. I don’t want to stay home.”
With his wife in a coma last year, John came to work each morning at 4 a.m. alone. Then some of their regulars offered to help.
“We tried to offer him money to help with the medical expenses with Stella, and he just wouldn’t accept,” said Marc Loopesko.
John wouldn’t take a handout so his customers decided to try a buyout. Turning to social media, they spread the word to show up early and buy up all of the doughnuts, so John could close up early and spend more time with Stella.
Doughnuts were selling like hotcakes with people coming from across the country.
“I’m from Minnesota and I heard about this,” said one customer, Anne Keller. “This is awesome.”
Loopesko said people came from “50, 60, 70 miles” away.
“Not only to buy just one doughnut, but dozens,” he said. “They didn’t even want a doughnut, but they came here and helped.”
Stella and John said all the support helped her get better.
With Stella’s return, business is back to a normal pace, but the confections now come with special affection.
“I feel grateful,” Stella said. “They give me a hug. I’m so happy.”
Asked if the shop is complete with Stella back behind the counter, Loopesko said, “A twinkle in my eyes, a delicious doughnut in my belly and the day is good.”