Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


June 23, 2014

Tidbits: A yay-boo time for doughnuts

CROSSVILLE — Regular readers of my column will know, I have a sweet tooth. I love all kinds of pastries and confections, baked treats and iced deliciousness. Among my top five list of sweet treats are doughnuts. I'm particularly fond of cake doughnuts, an ingenious way to combine two of my favorite treats. And, if you get the blueberry cake doughnuts, it makes a perfectly acceptable breakfast for the busy gal on the go.

It's been a yay-boo time for doughnuts in this area, it would seem, with one long-time shop gaining some well-deserved national attention for keeping students, and everyone else, going with a sugar high over in Cookeville, and a shop in Chattanooga bracing for action by city hall over its delightful mural of flying doughnuts.

For those of you not familiar with "yay-boo," let me explain. A professor in college used this expression for when there was good news and bad news, good things and bad things, that came along. It offers a little perspective that, really, things are not as bad as they seem. Perhaps it should be boo-yay, but that sounds too much like booyah, an exclamatory statement often used in periods of extreme joy or by announcers on ESPN.

So first, to the good news. Ralph's Donut Shop was honored with an entry on "America's 25 Best Donuts" list by The Daily Meal for it's apple fritter.

Ralph's has been serving up these and other delicious sweets for more than 50 years from its Cedar Ave. store. Like the writers at The Daily Meal said, time stands still at this small-town gem. I can remember many trips to Ralph's for a little pick-me-up during finals week. My parents both recall their trips to the eatery, too, decades earlier. I still like to run through the drive-thru on occasion when I'm in the Hub City and treat myself to some doughnut holes.

The boo news came from Chattanooga where an overzealous city inspector said a delightful mural of flying doughnuts on 20th St. was actually an illegal advertisement for Koch's Bakery, owned for more than 30 years by Barbara Davis.

The city attorney there has halted further action against the long-time business owner, pending a review of the city's ordinance and review by the city council to consider potential clarifications.

Davis had paid $11,000 of her own money to have the charming, whimsical doughnuts painted on a blank wall of a dilapidated building.

The mural, which features several iced doughnuts floating through a blue sky, doesn't include any writing, or even the name of Koch's Bakery on Broad St.

The mural had been featured in the Chattanooga Times Free Press just days before the sign inspector came calling.  The 15-foot by 70-foot space was painted by mural artist Joseph Giri, who has done public art for years across the country.

The area of Chattanooga is called the Southside and, just a few streets over, grants and donations have been used to allow local artists to paint murals to beautify the area.

"I thought that was what they wanted people to do," Davis told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "To make the Southside look better."

The city's sign ordinance does not require a permit for a wall mural, unless they include written trade names, advertising or commercial messages. So the question is, is the mural a commercial message or is it public art? Had the bakery painted anything other than what is sold in the store, it would have been OK, the inspector told Davis.

The ugly street corner, which faces a different street than where Davis' storefront is, kept being tagged with graffiti. What would you want? Graffiti or happy little doughnuts flying through the air? Just looking at the picture of the mural put me in a better mood. Imagine fighting your way through Chattanooga traffic, which has been plagued by road construction since I was three, and then coming upon these bright, cheery doughnuts. Wouldn't you feel better, too?

Artist Giri said, "Those doughnuts aren't there to encourage consumption. They're a celebration of the woman being there for 31 years, getting up every day at 3 a.m. and busting her hump creating employment and helping out many, many people."

And that's what public art is about, celebrating the culture values and community identity of a place. It's as unique as the people of the neighborhood, who make that place their home. It communicates with and catches the eyes of people who might never find their way to a museum. It is part of a community's unique voice, and that voice needs to be encouraged, not stifled.

• • •

Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at

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