Thoughts of opening her own bakery began years ago when Marschelle McCoy was helping at a friend’s bakery on the square in Charleston. It wasn’t until planning her 45th birthday party she found, rather than spending her hard-earned money on a spectacular celebration, she would rather revisit that idea.
After praying about it, Marschelle says it kept coming to her in a dream, only instead of a bakery, it was a doughnut shop—what she believes was a God-given message and direction.
Originally from Chicago, Marschelle came to Charleston to finish school at Eastern Illinois University. Now, however, “I am 100 percent Charlestonian. I essentially grew up here,” she says. After graduation, she worked in health care for many years and as an office manager in one of her alma mater’s academic offices for 11 years.
She credits God with every decision made along the way regarding her new business, including the name of the shop. “I woke up one morning, and it was there, at the forefront of my mind,” she says. “He was in the name, the logo, even the color scheme. God blessed every step of the way.”
Revival City Doughnuts was born. The shop opened mid-July, but she had to close for a couple of weeks in August due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. Marschelle says it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “I used the time to think about the business. I changed some processes, and the business immediately benefitted from it.”
Of the flavors that have become fan favorites, the glazed doughnuts and maple squares still go the fastest. “It doesn’t matter how many trays we make—three, four, six—the squares are gone,” she says, adding that it’s rare to have any doughnuts left at all.
People come and try other flavors, and they soon become favorites, too, like the Strawberry Cheesecake and the Lemon Drop, which was meant to be temporary but has been selling since its debut. Her lack of a sweet tooth is a blessing, she says. “[It] makes me a good judge of the product.” When she comes up with a new idea, Marschelle will often toss one as an extra into boxes of mixed doughnuts to test them with customers.
She says the shop has had foot traffic from the beginning. “People stood in line since it opened, even in the rain,” she says. In fact, sales volume has been so high, she didn’t anticipate being where she is until six months from now. As a result, she is already upgrading equipment and is in talks with businesses outside Charleston that wish to sell her product. She also plans to begin delivery service this winter. Customers have been asking for Revival City Doughnuts T-shirts and merchandise, so that may be coming soon, as well.
Along with the success, there have been challenges. “Building, equipment, capital—there has been one challenge after another,” Marschelle says. “You can write all the business plans you want, but when the doors open and you are finally in the flow of things, those plans can leave you in a lurch, and you may have to reassess.”
She describes her experience so far in two ways: one, as a business owner in Charleston, and two, of opening a business during a pandemic. “[It’s a] good location, on the corner of 9th and Lincoln, on the main thoroughfare … steps away from the university, a perfect mix of commercial and residential.” Marschelle says the community has been welcoming and supportive, which has been a blessing in an otherwise difficult year.
“One lady ordered four dozen. I had to tell her there wouldn’t be enough for everyone in line—but the lady had just wanted to contribute. There was another young woman who ended up only buying a drink, because she also wanted to contribute. On Small Business Saturday, I can’t explain it, but I could tell from people’s demeanor they came on purpose just to support this small business.”
Even before opening, her former EIU instructor Gwen Little bought paint for the exterior and paid for the painter. “Gail from Poteete Rentals helped out with decorations and in the early days of opening. [And] Sweet Tea’z let us use one of their rooms for training,” she adds. “So many have given so much. It has been wonderful, and I am grateful to be a part of this community.”
One day she was sitting behind the counter, exhausted, hearing some negative remarks and seeing the line, and she prayed for a fishes-and-loaves miracle and that God would let there be enough doughnuts for everyone in line. And when she got to the last person in line, there were just enough doughnuts to go around. “He still answers prayers today. We’ve seen lots of miracles here,” Marschelle says.
She has some tips for other people dreaming of opening their own small business. “I had the thought years ago, but when things fell in my lap this year, it was sudden,” she says. “Use your local SBDC [Small Business Development Center] as a resource and confidante. Glean everything you can from them. [They are] a great resource.” She also advises calling the Illinois Department of Commerce First Stop Business Information Center for information about regional resources.
Finally, Marschelle recommends humility. “Even if you know everything there is to know about your business, be humble and listen to others. Listen to your customers. Sometimes you need to tweak,” she says.