There is no place or spot quite like Shipley Do-Nuts with its eye-catching bright red awning. Greeting you are owners Joe and Linda Kenny. Shipley Do-Nuts was established in 1936, and the franchises are scattered all over the U.S., but the one in Starkville is the absolute best.
If you add a cup of hot coffee or hot chocolate on a windy February morning to your order I bet you will feel toasty warm. The lights flip on at exactly 2 a.m. The first shift of Joe’s staff opens up the door, and they turn on the stoves as they prepare for the morning crowd. Every pastry is made from scratch every morning, and during the day they keep cooking to keep their racks filled. The door opens at exactly 5 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. Twelve people are employed, and at 11 a.m. the shift changes. At the end of the day the doughnuts go on as half priced, and those that do not sell are lovingly given to the Starkville Fire, Police and Sheriff’s departments.
This little building becomes a gathering place for people and for racks of do-nuts, coffee and sweets of all kinds too. There are probably 25-30 items you can eat every day. They sell 400 cups of coffee daily. French Roast, Caramel, Breakfast Blend, Seattle Best, 100% Columbian and Cinnamon Nut Cream coffee which they get from North Carolina. They have soft drinks and juices, too. This is a family establishment filled with people of all ages, and it is habit-forming.
One of the neatest things is the rack that houses newspapers to casually read and leave back on the shelf. They provide their customers the Starkville Daily News, The Starkville Dispatch, The Clarion-Ledger and USA Today to read as they eat do-nuts and drink coffee catching up on the news of the day from the papers and from the other customers.
Shipley’s is clean and inviting. It reminds me of my Granny’s big kitchen at 501 Louisville Street in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It has a homey feeling about it the second you walk in. Joe’s walls are wallpapered with the famous folks around Starkville as well as the state of Mississippi. Smiling faces stare down as you sit at the quaint tables, such as Coach Dan Mullen, players, coaches, former Gov. Haley Barbour and his wife grace the front door as you glance up. Joe even put up a recent photo of me as I was going out to paint with all of my art supplies right beside Gov. Barbour. You might say he will put up just about anyone on his “Wall of Fame” by just coming inside. I feel honored.
Behind a great owner always stands great, wonderful and loyal employees. Behind the owner and employees stands a tight community of people. Joe said, “Starkville is one of the most unique communities in the country. This is a family oriented community that is friendly, kind, supportive and caring.” Local employee Carolyn Rheuble said, “I love it here, and it is a great retirement place and a special job for me to have in my retirement to be able to work in a place with people I love. I suppose you could say that I am the grandmother working here,” Margaret Brown said, “It’s exciting to work here because there is something different happening every day.” I love getting up to go to work every day. It’s a gift from God.” Glenda Smith said, “We have wonderful customers here in Starkville.”
As I munched on my do-nut, in came two regular customers. Kirk Rosenhan, the county fire services coordinator for Oktibbeha County, who said, “I surely did miss them when they closed for Christmas and New Year’s Day. This is a place to go to see all the people I enjoy seeing. Shipley’s has evolved into a public institution, and we have real newspapers to read, too.” Kirk added, “I just did quality control on the place. I check it out each morning, and it passed all fire codes.” Jimmy McKell said, “I love coming by on Saturdays. and it is fattening. Oh, well.” Dr. George Verrall dropped by and said, “We meet others here, and we discuss what is really going on in town and the world, too. I enjoy doing the crossword puzzles and checking out the sports in the newspapers I borrow off the shelves.” Joe Kenny said, “Every Monday is free coffee day for seniors.” All kids get free lollipops, too, and we get to watch some of these same kids grow up right before our eyes here, too.” He said, “Look at the shelves on the wall. We have three train sets for the kids. These trains run on those tracks. Hear the whistle blow.”
As I keep munching do-nuts and sipping on my water, trying to keep the calories down, I kept chatting with Joe. He told me that he was born in Severna Park, Md. which is a water community out of Annapolis, Md. He has owned Shipley’s for 15 years and he and Linda have adopted Starkville as their home away from home. When he goes back north to visit his mother, he can not wait to get back to Starkville. I met his delightful mother Josie years ago. I also knew their daughter, Leslie Kenny Chain and her husband, Dr. Jeff Chain, who was an orthopedic surgeon here, and their children, Stephen, Elizabeth and Mallory Chain. I looked into Joe’s eyes and saw a gentleman who loved what he did every day and loved this city, state and county. It is so nice to have Joe and Linda Kenny come into our community and adopt this town as their new home for the rest of us to enjoy them as citizens and their sweets, too.
Let’s go back to Nov. 21, 1993 when got our new Shipley’s. It was owned by two sisters, Marilyn and Rosemary. On the left wall is a large framed print that I gave them as a gift with their very first dollar framed inside the painting. It still hangs on the wall. Joe Kenny bought Shipley’s from the sisters. Early in the morning 17 years ago, I packed up my art supplies and on June 19, 1995 and headed down to Shipley’s to paint all day. Come with me now as we re-paint this painting. We shall see this painting from top to bottom and left to right as we read a page in a book. In a way we are both reading a page of my own past as we share this piece of work together. You are now my viewer and my reader.
We shall start at the top of this 20X30” board of rag paper. This is a large painting done with acrylic paint. Just let your eyes drink in the cobalt paint with only a hint of cloud or two floating my in the sky. Is it not a beautiful day? See the sign with the red stripe going all around the front of the top of the building making its turn to the side of the building. See the logo of Shipley’s with a do-nut and underneath the do-nut it says, “good and fresh. Est. 1936.” Look at the darling red canopy over the front windows and door. Look at the precious red and white gingham curtains.
See the blues from the reflections of the sky outside on the window panes. Find the black and red “OPEN” sign in the bigger pane. There is a case inside that holds those soft drinks and juices. Look hard and spot the coffee pot and cups on the shelves. The tiny round tables and four chairs are inviting and charming.
There sits none other than Tommy Carlisle, director of transportation of our public schools. I really needed a real customer to pose for me that day as a portrait. So I sent in word by another customer: “Tommy, will you please hold that pose for second, and don’t you dare eat that do-nut till I capture you in my painting.” I really wanted to paint his portrait to become the one human being I needed. I remember Tommy glancing towards me and my easel with his thumb and second finger formed a circle just like the do-nut. I could almost hear his voice saying, “Okay, Carole, I shall do this just for you.” Thank you, Tommy, for posing for me.
Go now to the next big open picture window and spot one of the owners, Rosemary, in her white apron as she rolls out dough for the do-nuts made only at Shipley’s. As you look at these three large windows you have to sense a feeling of charm and warm sweetness about the whole building. This is a place to feel lots of love.
Let’s go back outside and see the two newspaper stands. One is bright yellow which has always been the color for the Starkville Daily News, and next to it is a smaller dark blue stand for The Dispatch. Next to these two stands is a warm, inviting, comfortable wooden bench on which to rest a spell as the soft shadows fall across the entrance which is sort of a concrete front porch. See the colors of blues, pinks and purples on the entrance. Go down the steps that I painted, and see the first pink/red blooms of the attractive crepe myrtle tree.
I think as an artist the building on this now familiar corner lot represents the same colors as our flag. The reds in the sign, awning and touches inside in the curtains and on the Coke machine are the reds in our flag, the building is white and the cobalt blue is in the sky, so it’s red, white and blue. It’s true that in our great country we are patriotic, and when it comes to do-nuts, and to Mississippi, folks enjoying have a gathering place to laugh, talk and catch up on the news around Starkville and Oktibbeha and our university, MSU, as well as the world. The place to do that as you enjoy a sweet and as you sip on coffee is without a doubt Shipley’s.
Carole McReynolds Davis is a local artist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .