COLUMBIA, SC (January 16, 2013) – The sweet smell of doughnuts mixes nicely with the luck in the air at Sunny’s Quick Stop in Gaffney.
The convenience store at the intersection of Logan and Granard streets gained notoriety over the summer for selling two sizable winning lottery tickets but these days is serving up something new —delicious doughnuts.
Sunny’s Donuts is the beneficiary of the lottery wins.
Owner Sunny Poeng sold the first winning lottery ticket worth $250,000 in July 2012 and three months later sold another ticket worth $200,000.
The retailer selling bonus from these wins was the shot in the arm the family-run business Sunny and his wife Lang started in 2006 had been hoping for. The down turn in the economy hit them hard.
“We became ‘The Lucky Store,’” said Sunny.
Lottery sales were up and business was good.
So good, the Poengs took a chance and invested the $4,500 in lottery commissions earned off the sale of the winning tickets to help their son Andrew, 26, start Sunny’s Donuts next door to the convenience store in October.
For 17 years, Sunny ran a Sunny’s Donuts in Ukiah, CA, before moving his family cross country to Kings Mountain, NC, to be closer to family. Lang missed the doughnuts Sunny no longer made and was proud Andrew was following in her husband’s footsteps.
“Nothing around here tasted like what we make,” said Lang, who’s seen firsthand the sacrifices her husband and son have made to startup the pastry shop.
Sunny wakes up at 2 a.m. to school Andrew in the family’s recipe and then stays to oversee the convenience store until the doors close at 8 p.m. Sunny comes home, eats and goes straight to bed.
Judging by the reviews, the long days have been worth it.
The word on the street is their doughnuts are better than all the rest. And Andrew Poeng agrees.
Customers leave Sunny’s with a doughnut in one hand and a lottery ticket in the other.
But the Poengs success is built on more than just sugar and luck.
Hard work is at its core.
Andrew, like his parents before him, is chasing the American Dream.
Sunny and Lang risked everything escaping Cambodia so their three children would have a chance at an education they were denied. Andrew is the first in his family to graduate from college with a degree from Appalachian State. The doughnut shop is his first business venture.
“My father has lived through horrors I can only imagine,” Andrew said. “It was really tough for him, but he faced certain death if he had not escaped Cambodia.”
In Cambodia, Sunny was little more than a slave, an unpaid laborer, during the Khmer Rouge silent genocide instituted by Pol Pot from 1975-1979 that forced millions from the cities to rural areas to work in agriculture. At age 16, Sunny was forced to work 16-hour days and starved.
His decision to leave came when his brother was murdered and his own life was threatened.
“I prayed if I die let it be fast, and if not give me a chance to escape,” he said.
After three unsuccessful attempts, Sunny found freedom by walking day and night and sleeping among dead bodies to make it to the mountainous and landmine ridden Cambodian border with Thailand.
Stalled at the border, Sunny was rescued when he spotted a truck waving the UN flag. He met Lang at the United Nations Red Cross camp. Their marriage was arranged. He carries a picture in his wallet of the two of them, he is 22 and she is 20.
Unlike Sunny, Lang never planned to leave Cambodia. Separated from her family, she spent her childhood working as a servant for another family.
“I almost died from sickness two times because there was no medicine,” she recalled.
Lang was working as a nurse at a hospital where she was finally able to reconnect with her lost siblings. Her search for family led her to the Thailand border, and that’s when her family decided to escape.
After a year and a half in the UN camp, Sunny and Lang wrote USA on their applications and were flown to New York to start over.
Lang became a U.S. citizen in 1990, and Sunny gained his citizenship in 1994.
“The American Dream doesn’t come easy,” Lang admitted.
“I was not afraid,” said Sunny. “I wanted to be my own boss. I was determined, and today our customers love us because we are honest, friendly and work hard.”
They always find time to smile.
Lang laughs when customers tell her the doughnuts are making them fat or they want her to pick them out a winning lottery ticket.
“They are all winning tickets till you scratch them,” she jokes. “Good luck. Have a Sunny Day!”
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