Plain & Fancy Donut Shop closing after 57 years; some fans left with sweet tooth unfulfilled on Friday

·4 min read

Jul. 30—SCHUYLKILL HAVEN — When Jeremy Manbeck pulled up in front of the Plain and Fancy Donut Shop a little after 9 a.m. Friday, he was too late.

The sign on the door of the iconic shop at 120 St. Charles St. read "SOLD OUT."

"I came down to buy doughnuts for the guys at work," said Manbeck, 42, who works at Leiby's Dairy in Lewistown Valley. "When I go back with no doughnuts, there's going to be a lot of griping."

Manbeck, who's been getting sticky buns at Plain & Fancy since he was a child, was among a cadre of customers whose sweet tooth went unfulfilled.

After 57 years, Plain & Fancy is going out of business, and fans of the shop's pleasing pastry showed up in droves for the start of its final weekend.

"There was a line outside the shop when it opened," said Bruce Schafer, 75, a retired truck driver who lives a few doors away. "There wasn't enough room for everyone to fit inside."

The shop racks were cleared of glazed doughnuts, long johns and eclairs in less than two hours, according to neighbors.

Plain & Fancy will open at 7 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, then shut off the ovens for good.

Owner Alonna McKeone could not be reached for comment, but a sign on the door says the shop will close on Monday.

"Thank you for 60-plus years of business. It was not an easy decision, but a necessary one," reads the sign, signed by McKeone.

On Facebook, McKeone said she was closing because of "a much needed retirement."

"Thank you to all, past and present, that have helped Jim and I over the years through both good and sometimes difficult times," she wrote. "Sorry for the short notice."

A young man's dream

James L. McKeone, who was born in Pottsville, always wanted to own and operate a bakery. Even as a teenager, he had a keen business sense. Though the city had two bakeries, he reasoned, neither sold doughnuts.

At 23 years old, McKeone embarked on what would become a life-long journey.

In a small shop on West Union Street, which he rented for $40 a month, McKeone opened a bakery on March 13, 1965, the Pottsville Republican Herald reported on Plain & Fancy's 50th anniversary in 2015.

He was a bit leery about the name, but the state Department of Agriculture required one and Plain & Fancy was as good as any.

Little did he know, the name Plain & Fancy would become synonymous with great doughnuts for generations of residents throughout southern Schuylkill County.

The shop would become known for its Pennsylvania Dutch fastnachts, a tradition on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. At one point, Jim McKeone said in 2015, the shop would make 5,000 to 6,000 dozen of the doughy delicacies on Donut Day, the secular name for Shrove Tuesday.

In addition to the bakery at 120 St. Charles St. in Schuylkill Haven, a town landmark, Plain & Fancy would operate stands at Renninger's Market near Orwigsburg and the Fairgrounds Farmers Market near Reading. They will also close.

Jim McKeone died at his home in Schuylkill Haven on Feb. 22, 2021. He was 78.

One last time

Alan Felty wanted his grandson, Jackson, to taste a Plain & Fancy powdered doughnut before the shop closed.

Jackson and grandpa were both disappointed when they showed up around 9:30 a.m. and were greeted by the sold out sign.

A customer for 25 years, Felty also wanted to say thanks to Alonna McKeone for the joy she's brought to so many people for so many years.

"Everything they made was good," said Felty, 72, who owns a Pine Grove trucking firm. "You'd go in to buy one thing and come out with two or three."

Well after 10 a.m., more than two hours after the store sold out, vehicles were still arriving. They'd pull up, see the sold out sign, and leave.

Carissa Yeager arrived with a yen for her favorite doughnut — creme-filled with sprinkles — but to no avail.

"I figured they might be sold out," said Yeager, 19, a Schuylkill Haven resident who attends Penn State's Harrisburg campus. "I'll have to try again tomorrow."

Jackie Frear Binkley came up from Sinking Spring to get one last doughnut with her friend, Lisa Clevinger Rosenberger, of Schuylkill Haven.

Binkley, who manages a Yankee Candle store in Wyomissing, is a vanilla doughnut with sprinkles girl. Rosenberger is a diehard chocolate eclair and long john with coconut fan. They're members of the Schuylkill Haven High School Class of 1980, and by chance ran into another classmate in front of the doughnut shop, Jack Callaway, of Schuylkill Haven.

They revisited old times, of which the doughnut shop was a part.

For Rosenberger, 59, a retired teacher, Plain & Fancy evoked memories of a lot more than tasty doughnuts.

"It's sad that it's closing," she said. "I'd bring my son here for doughnuts before school, and we'd eat them together in Bubeck Park."

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