"Hi, I'm buying doughnuts for people," said Julian Weisser, standing in the doorway of Happy Donuts on Wednesday morning. "Would you like one?"
Weisser stood with a wad of single-dollar bills in his hand, offering three to each: enough for a doughnut, with a little left over for a tip.
"Make sure to tell people about this place. It's a really good spot," he told one patron.
After reading about a Monday armed robbery at the Noe Valley Happy Donuts, Weisser decided to step up.
"This place was impacted recently," he said. "I want to support them, get the people out and just do a good thing for the community. So yeah, nothing special or a big deal."
Police said two armed men entered the business around 5:38 a.m. Monday and demanded money from employees. The employees complied, and the suspects fled with an undetermined amount of cash and an ATM—they even emptied the baker's pockets of $80.
After posting to X/Twitter that Weisser planned to buy doughnuts for anyone who showed up at Happy Donuts around 9 a.m. Wednesday, he said several folks who saw his post volunteered to cover more costs. He estimated contributions at around $200, not counting the trio of strangers who approached him with $20 bills to keep the free doughnuts going.
Just steps away, Lisa Jaicks stood outside with her dog, Louie. She brought money to contribute to the cause and wanted to give money to the baker.
"I came here Monday night, as I always do, and got my doughnut. I did all my other things, went to bed and then read [The Standard] around 2 in the morning," said Jaicks, a customer for more than four decades whose regular order is apple fritters, "the most decadent thing on the menu, next to custard-filled maple bars.
"It's just a good old-school 24-hour doughnut shop," she said. "It's always been here, a pillar of the neighborhood. You could count all kinds of people here. When I had a child, I was so glad that we lived nearby because I thought that would be a good place for him to hang out."
On the subject of the robbery, Jaicks was defiant: "I'm worried about the people who work here. I always wondered if there were enough people working here on the graveyard. But I'm definitely not going to stop coming."
As Weisser told The Standard about putting up signs in public in Noe Valley about his doughnut-buying spree, a man in line chimed in to say he'd seen one near a supermarket.
"I was walking, and for some reason, it caught my eye," Utkarsh Sharma said. "I never really looked at that display before."
Sharma said Wednesday was probably the third time he'd visited since moving to the area about six months ago. When asked if he had a favorite doughnut, he said the glazed chocolate.
San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the district the doughnut shop is in, said he'd seen Weisser's post on social media and decided to come by to thank him. Joining him was David Burke, a civilian public safety liaison with San Francisco police.
Mandelman noted several recent public break-ins and robberies, as well as the fatal crash Sunday near a highway exit of a vehicle suspected in auto burglaries that fled police during a pursuit.
"There's plainly lots of crews who have decided that they're going to go after San Francisco small businesses, and it's a problem," explained Mandelman, who said he found the Monday attack at the shop alarming.
Burke, who follows up with crime victims to provide tips on fortifications, said he was also seeing an uptick in crimes against small businesses for thefts of ATMs.
"This was an active robbery, a gun in your face," Burke said. "Most of these are usually done as a part of a burglary when places like this are closed. They don't want to meet the people. They want to get your stuff and take it away.
"This was very scary and unusual. But we want these places to stay open. That's the most important thing is that people feel safe in the neighborhood."
There were reported 16 robberies in Noe Valley in the 12 months before Sept. 30, 2023, compared with 13 during the same period ending in September 2022, according to police incident data analyzed by The Standard. There were five reported robberies in the same period ending in 2019.
Citywide, the number of reported robberies has dropped since pre-pandemic 2019, from 34 to 31 incidents per 10,000 residents.
Behind the counter, as owner Ratha Vann grinned and lifted a tray of freshly cooked doughnuts before dipping them into pans of glaze or sprinkles, a local business employee, who came in to offer support, called the outpouring of support from visitors on behalf of owner Vann and shop workers "absolutely beautiful."
"They have been very resilient, strong and very positive. They're still continuing on the family business without fear, without anxiety, moving forward," the employee said, who asked not to be named for fear of being targeted.
"We are working together as a team and supporting each other."
George Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org