Someone should call John Marchand and tell him he's not the only mayor of Livermore.
Another council meets under a zigzag teal roof on a daily basis and discusses problems and solutions to what ails their city. For more than 30 years, Paul Knechtli, 73, and his friends have discussed life and Livermore politics over a cup of coffee and a doughnut at Donut Wheel.
"We've got electricians, painters, Teamsters, scientists," said Knechtli. "If there's an issue, we've got a versatile answer for it."
Knechtli started going to Donut Wheel in the late '70s at 5:30 every morning to get a coffee and a doughnut before heading off to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory by 7 a.m. to work as a machinist. Now, many of the morning regulars are retired and can relax and talk a lot more.
Jim Bottorff, a retired architect who worked at Livermore and Sandia labs, said everyone in the morning council of Donut Wheel has a role.
"Paul's the mayor," said Bottorff, who has been going to Donut Wheel nearly every morning since the 1980s. "I'm the postman. I always take people's mail to the post office for them."
Ben Purmont, a retired warehouse manager for Lucky's, has joined the morning gathering there for more than 25 years. The regulars are so regular that if they miss a morning without telling anyone in advance, the rest of the group gets worried. Jerry Christine, a retired contractor, has been coming just about every morning for four years. His order: plain doughnut, black coffee. Christine went on a trip to Oregon without telling the group.
"We were calling everyone trying to find him," said Bottorff.
Knechtli stirs his coffee in a mug he brings from home (he hates Styrofoam) with a 6-inch metal machinist scale. He also hates waste. He gathers leftover unused napkins off tables after people leave and neatly stacks them back on the counter.
Knechtli eats a plain buttermilk bar nearly every day.
"On Sundays, I treat myself to an apple fritter," said Knechtli.
Kim Taing and his wife Mary Naryung Taing moved from Cambodia in 1987 and bought Donut Wheel in 1988 from an Englishman named Pring. Knechtli jokes that he was part of the transaction.
"I came with the lease," he said.
Knechtli likes Donut Wheel's current ownership better.
"The old owner used to save up his money and travel to England every year," said Knechtli. "He would shut down for a while."
There's little risk of Donut Wheel shutting its doors: They are open 24 hours, seven days a week, thus making it the official after-bar hangout as well as the early-riser hot spot.
"I heard somewhere that Farmer Brothers sells more coffee to this place than any other account in the Bay Area," said Bottorff. He drinks his black with a nutrition bar from home (occasionally he gets a glazed old-fashioned).
Even if Knechtli drank only one cup of coffee per day over the last 30 years, he's had more than 650 gallons of it at Donut Wheel.
The friendships forged at Donut Wheel extend beyond the teal arch in front of its entrance. Bottorff plays the banjo and Knechtli plays the washboard in a band called the Wineland Banjo Band, which plays at Harry's Hofbrau on the first and third Thursday's of every month from 6 to 8 p.m.
"We used to play at the Farmer's Market, and every other person that came by knew Paul," said Bottorff.
Amid all the changes to downtown, the Donut Wheel is a holdout. The building was built in 1941 and with an eye toward making it look modern, in stark contrast to the older buildings in the area. The building's zigzag overhang was added in the 1970s. The architecture of the "Donut Wheel building" was seen as "Space Age," which makes its role as the old-school place where everybody knows your name -- or at least Paul Knechtli's name -- stand out even more.
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.