Daylight after darkness comes for donut maker - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Daylight after darkness comes for donut maker

Jeanette Valentin poses at the Daylight Donuts counter in Mills. After closing the location to focus on other stores, she’s now back in business on West Yellowstone. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Everybody loves donuts.

Not eating them is hard. Making them is even harder, particularly if you’re a single mother of two young children hoping to open your own business.

That describes Jeanette Valentine, who in the late 1990s was working in the bakery of a major supermarket chain.

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Everything was fine until corporate decided they’d do away with local baking and ship factory-made cakes and donuts in frozen form.

“I thought ‘hmm maybe I should start my own bakery,'” recalls Jeanette.

“So I did.”

She found an affordable spot in a Mills strip mall and started selling cakes, pastries and other treats, but she kept her day job at the grocery’s bakery counter until she felt stable.

Jeanette was a single mom with two kids working a job during the day and running a business at night.

“I’d come in here at night put them to sleep (in the office) and come out here and make cookies, brownies, turnovers…”

After her store closed at 2 p.m., she’d head back to the grocery and work until 7 p.m., then in a few hours do it all again.

“I wasn’t making a dime, everybody wanted donuts, she said.”

Jeanette says her landlord first suggested becoming a Daylight Donuts licensee.

She’d never heard of the brand, which started in Oklahoma in 1955 and has a loyal following.

But she took the advice, knocked down a wall to open up space in the kitchen for industrial friers and business quickly took off.

In addition, she co-branded the Daylight Donuts side with the Yellowstone Grill, where she can sell burgers and sandwiches for the lunch crowd.

After several successful years she expanded into a new strip mall on the corner of Second and McKinley.

The high-traffic area with a drive-up window was a success.

Then came the Talon Drive store in the Mesa development.

Mesa seemed to have it all. A large new school, new housing, a big movie theater and shops.

“I thought Talon Drive was going to be a hotshot, and it wasn’t,” she said. “I banked and hoped and put all of my efforts into that store…I wish I had never done the Talon drive store.”

Though she served lunch at Talon, the foot traffic never materialized.

Casper’s economy also slowed at the time, which caused business to slide even at her successful locations. The downturn also slowed development at Mesa, so the bank, office building and more neighborhoods didn’t arrive in time to help with sales.

The financial strain forced her to first close her Second Street location. Mills shuttered next, then early last month the Talon location closed without warning.

The Daylight Donuts location at Talon Drive sits empty after it abruptly closed in May, 2019. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Someone like Jeanette doesn’t stay down for long.

With help from her former Mills landlord, she’s reopened right back where she started at 4693 W. Yellowstone.

“I didn’t know if I was going to get this one back, but I think everybody wants me to do OK…it’s been wonderful.”

“I got put on a prayer chain at one of the churches,” she said. “They offered to come in and help me paint.”

“It’s going to be way tough,” she says. “I try to stay smiling.”

Once again, Jeanette is at her store when Casper goes to bed.

With help from a longtime employee, she preps dough from scratch and fries dozens upon dozens of delightful donuts to start serving by 4:30 a.m., the most popular being long johns and fritters.

“If you’re out of long johns you might as well close,” she said.

She’s back to delivering donuts to Common Cents and Homax convenience stores, as well as the new Scarlows Gallery, Art & Coffee shop.

Jeanette says the Yellowstone Grill will start serving lunch again in a couple of weeks.

The kids who once slept in that small office now help Jeanette market on social media, but other than coming in to visit that’s where it stops.

“Neither one of them want anything to do with the donuts,” she says.

Daylight Donuts & The Yellowstone Grill is open Monday through Saturday from 4:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 4693 West Yellowstone in Mills.