The “closed” sign hung uncharacteristically on the door of the Centerville mainstay that is normally open all day every day.
Bill’s Donut Shop owners Lisa Elam-Tucker and Jim Elam were forced into a weeklong closure in November because of a collapsed sewer line. But rather than bemoan the unexpected problem, Lisa quickly got on the phone, offering the Life Enrichment Center and the House of Bread hundreds of donuts that couldn’t be sold.
Donuts are their business, but people are their priority. That connection to community — and delicious favorites — led voters to name Bill’s first place in Best Donut Shop for the sixth straight Best of Dayton contest.
“I don’t want to throw anything away, there are so many people who could use it,” Lisa said.
Best of Dayton 2021 winners:
» Arts, Entertainment and Music
» Bars, Breweries and Nightlife
» Food, Restaurants and Dining
» People and Places
» Shopping, Gifts and Services
Generosity is a trait that that Lisa and Jim learned from their parents, Bill and Faye Elam. The couple made the first wish of the Dayton chapter of A Special Wish Foundation a reality in 1983. Close to four decades later, that connection with A Special Wish continues and a small donation box has a permanent place on the donut shop counter.
That relationship with the community goes both ways.
“When we shut down because of COVID, we got so many calls and notes, wondering what people could do for us,” Lisa said. “When we reopened, they were lined up around the building and down the block, all the way to the bank.”
Tradition is a building block of the success. Established in 1960 by Bill and Faye, the shop was originally located in downtown Dayton. It has been in its current locations since 1979.
“Hard work pays off,” Lisa said. “We make all of our own icings and cream fillings. We cut and shape our own donuts, and there are no preservatives.”
That attention to taste and quality has earned the Centerville shop national recognition from USA Today, Saveur magazine, People, BusinessInsider.com and Thrillist.com. They even got a shoutout on Ellen.
“It blows me away every time,” Jim said of the accolades. “I wish dad was around to see it.”
Lisa and Jim purchased the business in 1995 from their parents and the siblings have been running it ever since. Donuts, after all, are in their blood.
“When I was a baby, I was in a box on the cutting table while my parents worked,” Lisa said. “We tell people, ‘Your kids had Play-doh, we had real dough.’”
Credit: Jim Witmer
Credit: Jim Witmer
That’s not to say it’s all smooth sailing for the award-winning donut shop. The pandemic closure in 2020 resulted in a 50 percent loss of revenue for the year. And while many of their employees returned, they are still dealing with an employee deficit.
And times have brought changes to Bill’s
“It used to be people would sit and have coffee and stay awhile,” Lisa said. “People are in a hurry now, we need to slow down and catch our breath.”
And have a donut. All these years later, both Lisa and Jim still enjoy donuts.
“We pretty much eat them every day,” Lisa said.
“I like the cinnamon roll,” Lisa said.
“I eat a glazed twist almost every morning,” Jim said.
Bill’s Donut Shop
First Place: Best Donuts
268 N. Main St., Centerville
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