Gatlinburg’s The Donut Friar asking for return of original shop sign

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — One of the most popular donut shops in Gatlinburg is asking for the return of their iconic sign. The Donut Friar, one of the original tenants in The Village Shops on the Parkway, had its sign showing a friar carrying hot donuts was stolen off the side of the building early Sunday, June 6.

One of the owners, Kevin Ryan, was in the store around 1:30 a.m. baking the shop’s assorted offerings of cake and yeast donuts for hungry customers when he heard a noise outside. Believing it was a black bear, Ryan kept working only to find the sign had vanished.

“We often have bears during the night time,” co-owner Kathleen Ryan Greely said. “My brother (Kevin) often sees them on his way to work.”

Kathleen and Kevin are two of the five children of Lynn and Jim Ryan who began running the store in 1970. It was one of the first 18 shops in the quaint European-styled shopping area just past traffic light No. 6. Kathleen said all five children pitched in to help bring in business to the store in the early days.

“I remember we had to go to the main street to give out samples just to get people to come back into the Village,” she said. “Our older brothers were the main bakers for years.”

The sign that was stolen was the original one put up 50 years ago and was repainted around 10 years ago. The logo was created by a family friend and acclaimed artist Jim Gray who died in 2019. His art gallery is still open in Gatlinburg.

The owners have made a police report and hope the sign can be returned. They have also contacted a local company to try to make a sign in the same style.


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