The Great American Donut Shop, affectionately known as GADS by locals to the Bowling Green area and surrounding counties, is one of those wondrous places unaffected by time and trends. It is unassuming, humble, and comfortable. Upon entry, scowls transform into smiles. Glazy and icy aromas, the knocks and clacks of bakers working the dough into circles, and ovens cooking material joy bans bad moods through suggestion via sensory overload. The display case is immediate, presenting its delicacies to customers who may want to try something new or what want “the regular.” (I usually spring for a blueberry or strawberry cake donut and a small coffee, no cream or sugar; please and thank you.)
Transactions with the staff are polite and quick. Much of the time, an employee will erupt from the back, asking what you want and grabbing a pair of tongs to fill up a skinny white bag or a plain white box emblazoned with GADS full name, address, and phone number in red ink on the top. A little tin bucket no bigger than a coffee mug is for tips (always keep a single or a fiver for tips). Once the money and donuts are exchanged, the employee goes off to help another customer or returns to the back to help bake. Sometimes the window to the left side of the service counter and display case is open, allowing hungry customers a chance to observe and watch (especially watch) the bakers work the dough. For small children, it is a special and almost magical sight. Fathers will lift their child and point, letting the little ones watch for a moment or two before turning their attention to the humble display housing delicacies that make even the oldest, grownest man into an eager child for at least a minute. It’s part of what makes GADS so special. It’s resistance to change maintains its charms, keeping it as dreamy as the story behind its establishment.
GADS was founded by Yong and Sae Tiang in 1990. Their story is the American Dream of Modesty and Honesty made real. They are immigrants from Cambodia, started their own business, and found success selling donuts in a college town best known for producing Chevrolet Corvettes.
The couple and their store enjoy support and love from the local community. Friends and families; students and teachers; dating couples and loners are common visitors to GADS. Whether or not they know the story and details behind the store’s start is somewhat irrelevant. What is relevant is the always-positive, never-negative experiences that seem to take place there.
I attribute this to GADS donuts and the fact that the place feels frozen in time. The menu board is a simple board with interchangeable black and red letters and numbers. The glass case is austere, naked except for the treats and description and pricing signs within. The booths are old and cream colored. The walls are lined with brightly colored, loud donut signs. The walls are a warm, almost custardy yellow. Everything is well maintained. Nothing about the store is garishly new. It can best be compared to a well-loved, cared-for hoodie or quilt; old, warm, and simple. Never changing and never out of style no matter how unfashionable it may seem. Where other establishments try to be hip and modern, GADS simply is.
If for some reason you ever find yourself in the Bowling Green area whether it be passing by or visiting for the Corvette Homecoming (or another car show), I encourage a visit to GADS. For a little bit of time and a few dollars, you might just have a little story to tell about a Great American Donut Shop to people back home; and a story is always worth it.