The Donut Man

3/31/2010, 9:06 a.m.
For the last 20 years, Clayton Turnbull has preached the virtues of politics and business ...

 More than most, Turnbull, 53, doesn’t simply talk about economic development. He has about 250 people on his payroll, but it’s not unusual to see him at one of his stores, pouring coffee or sweeping floors or chatting with long-time friends and customers. His stores in Mattapan, Dudley Square and Grove Hall have become gathering places for young and old, white and black, and everything in-between.  

The reason is simple, Turnbull says. “It’s about respect. At first people thought that I was crazy. But now they come to one of my stores and see how many people are there, and how clean and professional the operation is, and they now see what I saw years ago.”

It’s also about operating a good business. And having a vision and, most important, the ability to execute in even the most trying of times.

“We want to bring the urban village concept to fruition,” he once said, “where both businesses and homeowners are strong entities. Newbury Street is one of the most viable areas in the city, and it is loaded 98.9 percent with small businesses. We’d like to see that in the Dudley Square-Grove Hall-Upham’s Corner area — the parameters of our urban village.”

Turnbull readily admits that his vision requires a partnership — not simply with current business leaders, community advocates and politicians, but young people.

“I tell young people that, if they want to start their own business, go and work for someone and be the best employee,” Turnbull says. “Once you become a great follower, then you can become a great leader. Learning how to follow teaches you how to lead. And you better love the business you have chosen. Money can’t be the only incentive.”