The “Hole” Story About Portsmouth’s Crispie Creme

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Two families, two paths, two doughnuts with one common origin – that’s where our story starts. The year was 1933 and the backdrop was a doughnut shop in Paducah, Kentucky.

Jack Renison and his wife Celestia sold the Paducah store and moved to Portsmouth, Ohio, to open a new doughnut shop there. Their new store, like the one in Paducah, was called Crispie Creme.

Crispie-Creme-thumbnail-pic

Vernon Carter Rudolph is the man who purchased the Paducah store from theRenisons. He taught himself the doughnut business, replaced the Renison recipe with one he purchased from a French chef in New Orleans, moved to North Carolina and made one other small change – this one to the name. He changed the Cs to Ks and thus gave rise (sorry, just couldn’t resist that one) to the KrispieKreme doughnut empire.

But this isn’t a story of regret or what could have been. This is a story about an amazing doughnut shop in Portsmouth, Ohio, that is still serving up the same doughnuts, from the same recipe, that Jack and Celestia started serving up more than 80 years ago. After all, why change a good thing?

The Renison family ran the store from its inception until the early 2000s, withCelestia herself watching over the store until she passed in 1998. For a period of time after the Renison family sold Crispie Creme, the store went through a bit of an identity crisis and got away from strictly doughnuts and started dabbling in pizzas and sandwiches. Now, though under new ownership, Crispie Creme is back to what made it a staple in the community for almost a century – doughnuts – made the same way using the same ingredients the Renisons started with all those years ago.

Enter Randall Chamblin and Hila Hall. Two accidental bakers you might say. The Portsmouth natives never imagined themselves in the doughnut business. Randall and Hila went all through school together, then went on to work together and eventually retired from Verizon. But retirement life didn’t suit them very well. They were both searching for that next chapter in their life, but neither knew how the next page should read.

Then one fall evening, with the leaves turning color and the warm summer air giving way to the briskness of fall, another change was afoot. While watching her alma mater Portsmouth High take the football field, Hila saw a familiar number pop up on her cell phone. It was Randall. He called to inform her that CrispieCreme was for sale. Like almost everyone in town, she already knew. What she didn’t know though was the next thing that was about to come out of Randall’s mouth, “We’re buying it!”

Hila didn’t need to remind Randall that neither one of them knew anything about baking, doughnuts or running their own business. That much wasunderstood, but they weren’t about to let minor details like that get in their way. And we should all be glad they didn’t.

From that fall day in 2012 to the present, Randall has made it his passion to learn everything he could about the science and process behind making the perfect cake doughnut. He wasn’t out to reinvent the wheel either. The first thing he did was to bring back the Renison family’s secret mixture.

“That mixture is why people love our doughnuts, so that’s what I use,” he explained. “The key with a cake doughnut is to keep it light and not cut corners. A doughnut takes three hours to make and you want to make sure each one weighs between 1.6 to 1.7 ounces. That’s what we have here – a lighter, airier doughnut, made from scratch, that everyone loves.” He goes on to say, “The doughnut you get here today is the same doughnut you would have been served in 1950.”

That quality and familiarity are what set Crispie Creme apart, making it such a unique and beloved part of Portsmouth’s history. The town has seen its fair share of change. It has had a professional football team come and go, one of its sonsplayed an integral role in changing the national landscape by facilitating the downfall of the color barrier in major league baseball, and flooding nearly devastated the town entirely; but through it all, one doughnut has always been a “round.” And, if Randall and Hila have anything to say about it, it’s going to stay that way.

 

Info:
Crispie Creme Donuts
Portsmouth, Ohio
(740) 351-0606
Open Mon.-Sat. 6 a.m.- 4 p.m.; Closed Sunday

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Damian Gallaher

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