They queue from 4.30am to buy doughnuts by the dozen, but while the sweet treats are delicious, the patrons of Donut City in Seal Beach, California, have another reason for buying them. 

On a recent visit, regular customer Dawn Caviola noticed John Chhan was staffing the shop without his partner Stella – an anomaly since the pair, who arrived from Cambodia as refugees in the late Seventies, have been selling the fried snack since buying the store in 1990. 

Mr Chhan told her his wife, 63, had suffered an aneurysm in late September and was recovering at a rehabilitation centre. He would wait until all the doughnuts were sold, then clean the shop and rush out to visit her, she said.

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“I went home and I just couldn’t get it out of my head,” Ms Caviola told the Orange County Register. “They are just such hardworking people.”

Ms Caviola wrote a blog post on the community network Nextdoor, urging locals to help.

Since then, people have been turning up at the shop in the early hours and the 62-year-old owner sometimes sells out as early as 7.30am.

“We’re done for today. Sold out about a half-hour ago,” Mr Chhan told The Washington Post at 8am on Monday. Many customers bought three, four, or five dozen doughnuts, he said.

“I so appreciate it,” he added. “I just can’t say enough thank you and thank you.”

Ms Chhan lost the ability to speak and has suffered reduced mobility due to the aneurysm, he said, but he added that she was “getting better and better”. 

While he has thanked his customers, he has reportedly refused offers to start a fundraising page for his family.

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