Last year when Arnold resident Ben Hilliard heard that Bill and Stacey Prevezanos were hanging up their aprons after more than 30 years as owners of Severna Park’s beloved Donut Shack, he put in a bid in hopes of keeping the area’s sweetest destination open for generations to come. Though he didn’t ultimately purchase the Donut Shack, Hilliard was relieved to learn the new owners were going to keep the tasty business running, until it wasn’t.
For several months in 2019, something, or even many things, didn’t add up to Severna Park’s expectations. Locals took to social media to share their frustration that the Prevezanos family wasn’t the only thing missing in the Donut Shack’s special ingredients. Daily Facebook posts and clever memes showed just how much “Parkies” loved their “shack.”
“It was heartbreaking,” said Hilliard of the social media backlash. “It was clear that everybody wanted their Donut Shack back, the shack they grew up with and loved. I thought, ‘What if [I had purchased the business]?’”
Hilliard’s lament was short lived. As quality, service and cleanliness went down, the chatter in Severna Park ramped up. After being open for only seven months, the Donut Shack closed and was up for sale again. This time Hilliard wasn’t going to let his donut dreams leave a sour taste in his mouth.
Hilliard quickly mobilized a group and put in another bid in December; this time he purchased the Donut Shack.
Longtime friend and former restaurant coworker Ali Matthews is a co-owner with Hilliard. She, too, is a local resident who wanted to restore the business to its former glory. They entered the store on January 3, 2020, and have since spent every waking hour cleaning the store. On February 8, Matthews made the following post on the Donut Shack’s Facebook page:
Good morning! My name is Ali, and I am one of the new owners of the Donut Shack. We took over two weeks ago and have been working hard to reopen. I have so many wonderful memories of the Donut Shack and am thrilled to now be on the other side of the counter helping make them. I have been in the restaurant business for 30 years. I live locally. I am a mother. I am already a part of the community. Most of all, I love donuts and I am fully committed to re-establishing the legacy of the Donut Shack. Plainly stated, this means FRESH donuts, GREAT coffee, and a WELCOMING atmosphere.
News of Donut Shack’s purchase by local people willing to re-establish its legacy in Severna Park spread faster than a grease fire. This time, social media chatter lit up with expressions of support and promises to return to the new and improved Donut Shack.
“The Donut Shack was an affordable destination and it was special,” said Matthews. “I started bringing my son here as a treat for just us. Another partner remembers sitting at the same stool every Sunday to enjoy a donut with family. These are our memories, and we know most of our neighbors have memories, too.”
Hoping to bring the traditions alive again, Hilliard and Matthews feel the pressure to restore Donut Shack in all of its glory. They reached out to Bill and Stacey Prevezanos, who also watched in horror as their legacy, the business they loved and nurtured for decades, began to decay.
“There is certainly a learning curve. Mr. Bill made it look easy, but it’s definitely not easy!” said Matthews. “The success of the business, the heart of the business, is because of Bill and Stacy. We knew we had to include them in the rebirth of the Donut Shack.
“Look, a donut is a donut, albeit a delicious donut, but it is everything else they did,” said Matthews of the Prevezanos family. “There is so much more that goes into the Donut Shack experience. We know that, and we are completely committed to honoring the history and recipes that made the Donut Shack special. It’s a tremendous responsibility.”
Hilliard and Matthews said that the menu won’t change, although the coffee brewed will be Annapolis-roasted Ceremony Coffee. They will produce what was offered with Bill in the kitchen, but probably not all at the same time.
“I’d rather do 30 donuts really well than attempt 60 donuts not so well,” said Matthews. “We will get there, but we have a lot to learn before we can get to Bill’s level of proficiency.”
Matthews hopes the social media comments will be different this time around.
“Feedback is essential, and I’d like to address comments in person,” said Matthews, noting that she and Hilliard will be present in the 24-hour business.
“Feedback leads to relationships, and that’s what we want to foster,” added Hilliard.
Hilliard teased that a new neon window sign will be hung soon. “When the paper comes off the windows and the new sign is on, we will be open,” he said. “The tradition will continue, and we sincerely hope that Severna Park residents will give us a chance.”
Matthews concurs. “This isn’t just a job, it’s a long-term investment. We are 100% committed to maintaining the legacy that Bill and Stacey created, and to keep the Donut Shack firmly woven into the fabric of the community,” she said.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Saturday, February 29. Welcome back, Donut Shack!