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The More Things Change...

A collage of pictures on the wall in Donut Masters sums up the success of the shop. Although the shop boasts a dated Formica counter with swivel seats, fresh donuts and coffee at a dollar a cup, it's the faces that brings the regulars back day after day.

"It's them," said John Salvatore, pointing at the picture collage. "A conglomerate of people that's been coming in for years. They took it down one time. We got upset. It's tradition."

Salvatore was joined by other regulars Bob Golden, Ken Hanson and Jane Glakas. The men were members of the American Legion across Old Keene Mill Road, and Glakas moved to Springfield in 1957. At 11:30 a.m., this was the tail end of the morning crowd. Several different crowds pass through the shop throughout the day, according to Salvatore. There's early morning and late morning crowds, lunch crowd, afternoon crowd, and the night crowd. Some of the faces are the same during the day.

The discussions vary from day to day, depending on what's going on in the country and world.

"We have socialist/communist/conservative types," Golden said.

Discussions about everything come out of a multi-political group like that. Although arguments and lighthearted barbs are thrown around, camaraderie runs deep.

"It's like a family," Salvatore said. "Everybody looks after each other."

"If somebody doesn't show up for a week, we worry," Golden said.

Hanson, a World War II veteran, was in the Air Force and the Central Intelligence Agency, he said. Military experience dominates most of the conversations.

"When he was in Vietnam," Hanson said, pointing to Salvatore, "I was in Laos."

Salvatore's Vietnam experience marked the starting point of his Donut Masters stint. That was 30 years ago.

"I've been coming here since Vietnam," Salvatore said.

According to Hai Nguyen, owner, the chop suey donut is their big seller. It's an apple fritter covered in chocolate.

"A lot of people buy that," he said.

Nguyen runs things behind the counter along with his wife, Anh. When they arrive at 5 a.m., the early morning crowd is waiting at the door. Although three Starbucks coffee shops have moved into the area, Donut Masters still has some regulars.

"We have the best coffee. They say that," Nguyen said.

Donut Masters has changed hands through the years. The Nguyens are recent owners, but a few names were mentioned at the counter, including Strickland, a past owner of note.

"Regardless of who owns the place, the same people keep coming in," Salvatore said.

SOUTH ON BACKLICK a mile or so at Brookfield Plaza, Kennedy Coins is also a throwback business that's stayed open through the years. John Kennedy is the owner and knows every stamp, coin and collectible in the store, which he took over in September 1993. The lack of competition in the coin business is one key.

"There's so few of us left anymore," he said.

Another key to the store's success is the shopping center's owner, who isn't constantly raising the rates. Kennedy likes his surroundings in a strip mall that's dominated by ethnic restaurants, the Springfield post office, and a women's consignment shop.

"It's ideal," Kennedy said. "There's plenty of parking and security. The owners want to keep their tenants."

A couple of doors down is the 1320 II Club, a restaurant with no windows, specializing in adult entertainment. It hasn't bothered Kennedy.

"I didn't know what it was for the first three years," Kennedy said.

Kennedy lives in Maryland and started collecting stamps when he was 5. He watched his father, and it grew into a hobby.

"My dad used to collect," Kennedy said. "It's a bug. It's habit forming."

Over the years, Kennedy has given coin and stamp collecting lectures to various Scout groups in Springfield.

Kennedy Coins is a member of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, as well. Nancy-jo Manney, chamber executive director, considers longevity to be beneficial to small businesses around Springfield.

"They were able to get into the physical location when the rate was good," Manney said. "The ones that are still around are in the same locations."