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SEAL BEACH, Calif. — For almost 30 years, John Chhan and his wife, Stella, ran the Donut City shop in Seal Beach, California — a constant, reassuring part of countless customers’ lives.

But now the hard-working couple is facing a medical crisis, and their patrons are returning the sweetness.

Since Stella Chhan suffered a brain aneurysm last month, her husband has longed to spend as much time with her as he can.

“She’s in a nursing home,” John Chhan said. ” My sister-in-law is here helping me.”

With a business to run and bills to pay, the doughnuts still have to roll. John Chhan thought he would have to spend most of his time working at the doughnut shop away from his wife.

But when customers learned about the Chhans’ situation, they opened their hearts — and their mouths — wide.

Time to buy the doughnuts

Every day, beginning at 4:30 a.m., customers flock to the doughnut shop. They buy up all the glazed, all the frosted. They drink up the coffee as they hand over their cash and their love.

By 7:30 a.m., the bins are empty. John Chhan’s heart is full.

“It is heartbreaking to hear her misfortune,” regular Steven O’Fallon said of the woman who has been making him doughnuts for his entire life. “She was always in the back making doughnuts.”

“I would drop by there with my mom and dad in the mornings before school,” O’Fallon said. “John would always toss a few extra doughnut holes. He always has a smile on his face.”

O’Fallon and other customers said they are simply giving back the good cheer the Chhans handed out over the decades.

“Every Sunday for 20 years, we’ve been purchasing doughnuts,” said Jenee Rogers, another longtime customer. “It’s one of the few things that’s still here. He makes them fresh and brings them right there in the mornings. It’s a real American dream for them.”

The couple has worked hard for their piece of the dream and specifically asked that no crowdfunding sites be set up on their behalf. So, the customers decided to do what they’ve always done, just a little earlier in the morning: head to the shop, buy the doughnuts and spread the sweetness.

“I am very appreciative,” John Chhan said.