CENTERVILLE, S.D. (KELO) — In the heart of Centerville in southeastern South Dakota, you’ll find this colorful mural stylizing the small town’s name.
A closer look at the letter “T” hints at the bakeshop across the street.
Janine Ellis and her husband Keith owned the Royal Bake Shop for three decades, but it’s time for a new chapter.
“It’s been 30 years, Bryan has approached Keith through the last few years about possibly buying it, and it’s just the right time,” Janine Ellis said.
Bryan Hille was looking for a new chapter, too.
“I wanted a change,” Hille said. “I worked in the corporate world for 30 years of my life so I was pretty much done with that and I had known Keith for a while, four, five years.”
And ready to take over a bakery embedded in this community.
“It’s been here since 1946, when Dale Merritt started it, and it’s just always been here, that the kids grow up coming in before school and after school, and it’s just part of the town,” Janine Ellis said.
Hille says it’ll stay that way as he takes over ownership.
“One of the things that was part of the sale is that they wanted to make sure it stayed in Centerville,” Hille said.
Location isn’t the only persisting theme.
“The goal is to have the same quality that they’ve had for the last 30 years coming out to the customer, so they want to help ensure that, it’s after all their legacy, so, and I definitely want to move it forward for them,” Hille said.
“It’s been such a part of our lives, it’s really kind of surreal right now that it’s going to be changing, so it’s kind of a weird feeling, we’re going to miss it,” Janine Ellis said.
Even though ownership has changed, the trademarked “zebra” donut will continue to delight customers.
“They are layers of white chocolate dough, it’s a raised donut, and they’re glazed and then each one is hand-dipped in Keith’s hand-made chocolate icing,” Janine Ellis said.
The day we arrived at the bakery, at about 9 am, the Zebras were already sold out.
“People come from Sioux Falls and Yankton, Vermillion, all over the place for these zebra donuts,” Janine Ellis said.
Coffee pairs with donuts like Centerville pairs with this bakery, but you can put your wallet away if you need a cup.
“We give away coffee for free,” Hille said.
It’s hard to argue with the reasoning.
“A lot of people like coffee with their donuts,” Hille said.
And this is nothing new.
“It’s something that they started and I would like to carry it forward, same as them,” Hille said.
A donut might be a breakfast staple, but the process to make them begins well before you wake up.
“It starts around six, six-thirty the night before, carries on ’til three, sometimes four in the morning,” Hille said.
Janine says the bakery is in good hands.
“I think he’ll do well,” she said.
Still, Hille feels the weight of tradition.
“It’s a little daunting at times, just because I know it’s a big part of Centerville, and I’m pretty new here myself,” Hille said.
But any ongoing tradition had to start somewhere, and it has to persist; otherwise, it’s history. The foundation here at this bakery was already set. Now, its story continues.
“We’ve taken a lot of pride in this,” Janine Ellis said.