Clinton’s Master Donuts is run by a Cambodian refugee who’s helping feed the area’s homeless
Sereyvorn “One” Khom came to the United States from Cambodia, seeking a new life.
In the years since, he has learned English and a new trade, which three years ago brought him to Clinton. Now, at age 34, he has become the city’s most-popular doughnut baker.
As the proprietor of Master Donuts at 914 N. Charles G. Seivers Blvd., Khom comes to work before 3 a.m. every day. That’s when he begins preparing each day’s supply of doughnuts and other baked goods for his shop, which is open from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.
On a typical day, Khom makes from 30 to 40 dozen doughnuts, along with other baked items such as apple fritters, cinnamon rolls, bear claws, bagels, biscuits and croissants. Some are used for breakfast-style foods he sells such as sausage, egg and cheese biscuits and croissants.
And, at the end of each work day, Khom usually has a few doughnuts left over. In the past, rather than throw them away, he would take some to give away at places such as the police department, fire stations and churches and even to “poor people I see on the road,” he said.
But about six months ago, Khom connected with a Clinton-based ministry that feeds homeless people on the street and in makeshift camps in Knoxville, and now he donates many of his leftover doughnuts to that group to help the ministry’s meal programs.
He said he’s glad he can help feed the homeless.
“I grew up poor in Cambodia, so I know what it’s like to go hungry,” he said. “And the supplies we buy to make our doughnuts are expensive, so I don’t want to throw them away.”
Whenever he sees he will have a significant number of doughnuts left over as a business day nears its end, Khom picks up his phone and calls David Marantette of Clinton, who runs the Water Angel Ministries, whose mission is to help feed the area’s homeless population.
Marantette said he found Khom and his doughnut shop almost by accident one day about six months ago.
“I went to Dunkin’ Donuts out by I-75 to buy 10 dozen doughnuts for an event, and they told me they didn’t have anything close to that many on hand,” Marantette said. “I had heard of Master Donuts, so I decided to try there – and I was able to get what I needed.”
Khom asked Marantette why he needed so many doughnuts, and he told Khom about Water Angel Ministries. From there, a friendship grew, and Khom committed to providing many of his leftover doughnuts to the ministry.
“He’s a Buddhist monk and a refugee who came to make a life here,” Marantette said of Khom. “He’s an immigrant and he does well with his business, so he decided he wanted to do something to give back to the community.”
And the doughnuts just keep coming. “He donates 15 to 20 dozen doughnuts a week to our ministry,” Marantette said. “I figured that over the past few months he has been giving us $300 to $500 worth of doughnuts each week.”
The donations run from two to 10 dozen at a time, and they aren’t day-old doughnuts – they’re from each day’s morning batch, Marantette noted.
Because the boxes Master Donuts uses to sell its products to customers are expensive, Marantette picks up the doughnuts still on the aluminum trays that Khom uses to display them in the shop. Then the trays are returned to Khom the next day.
“We take the doughnuts and other food and feed people under the bridge or on the streets in downtown Knoxville,” Marantette said. “We feed people four days a week. And the doughnuts are always a welcome treat.”
Marantette also is a paying customer of Master Donuts, Khom said. “He usually orders some every Sunday.”
Khom recently closed his shop for three weeks so he could return to Cambodia for the funeral of his mother. “I am glad to be back,” Khom said.