ANNA MARIA -- In an age of journalism escape plans, Shawn Wampole's takes the cake doughnut.
Wampole left the grind of designing news pages at The Times-Herald in Norristown, Pa., to become a police officer in suburban Philadelphia. After the long shifts, being away from his two young sons and wife, it was time to do what any ex-officer and ex-reporter would do: open up a doughnut shop in Florida.
Wampole and his wife, Cecilia, opened Anna Maria Donuts on Dec. 4 at 210 C. Pine Ave., where his popular pastry has patrons lining out the door to choose wacky toppings -- like bacon and Fruity Pebbles -- for their doughnuts.
"We wanted to do a boutique doughnut shop, but I liked the idea of made-to-order because we can rotate different toppings, change things in, change things out," said Wampole, who earned a master's degree in journalism from Temple University. "And I wanted to set it up like a doughnut bar."
The shop is open 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays and is closed Mondays.
Wampole's doughnuts start out with a simple vanilla cake doughnut, and icings and toppings are selected from there. Whether it's vanilla, chocolate, glazed or maple, the combinations can get interesting with all the candy offerings like crushed Oreo, M&M's along with the traditional cinnamon sugar and chocolate sprinkles. No matter what combination you choose, it's a dollar a doughnut.
"I think one of the best doughnuts is when they're hot off the fryer," he said.
Toppings will come and go, and this summer, Wampole plans to offer a key lime doughnut with his own key lime sauce and graham cracker topping. The Florida summer isn't too kind to all toppings, however.
"We had to get rid of Butterfinger for the summer because of the humidity -- it was just one big glob," he said.
But there's something about bacon that the former cop can't resist.
"People think that's so weird," he said about the bacon. "But it's no different when you have pancakes with syrup and dip your bacon in it."
Wampole works like a machine with his wife by his side, cranking out 1,000 doughnuts a day to the smiles of small children and full-grown adults.
"I call it the Hibachi of doughnuts," he said. "The cooking is part of the show. It's not just the doughnuts."
Made-to-order doughnut shops are nothing new,with places like Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Fractured Prune in Ocean City, Md., and Federal Donuts in Philadelphia. Where Wampole wanted to stand out is that he wants to put the crazy on top, and not in the batter or filling.
"I really wanted to have a good product. We strived to have the perfect doughnut, and I wanted the doughnut to be good by itself. To me, if the doughnut isn't good by itself, then it's not a good doughnut," he said. "You can cover it up with icing and stuff, and it'll taste alright, but I want the plain doughnut to be good."
As much as fried dough is important to Wampole, so is family. Tired of the grind of living in suburban Philadelphia with crazy hours as an officer, his wife agreed it was time for a change of pace with two young boys, and they found Anna Maria Island.
"We came here on vacation and was kind of surprised there wasn't a doughnut shop, and it started as a joke that oh, we should open up a doughnut shop," he said. "We always wanted our own business."
The money worked, and now Wampole sets his own hours and closes the shop in time to pick up his kids from school.
On a busy day during season it might take until 4:30 p.m. to clean the shop after making doughnuts non-stop. Still, he can't complain.
"We're still working 10 hour days but we start early, so we're done early," he said.
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.