Basketball took Shaun Stonerook to a high school state title, college success at Ohio State and Ohio University, and 12 years in Europe. Now 42, he’s turning his attention to raising a family as well as running a business and a charitable foundation to help kids in foster care.
Shaun Stonerook popped out of the back of Schneider’s Bakery in Westerville, looked down at his dough-covered hands and apologized.
"Can you give me 15 minutes?" he asked a visitor. "I’m frying doughnuts, because I lost a fryer."
A few minutes later at a coffee shop down the street, Stonerook — his hands clean — unfolded his 6-foot-7 frame on a couch and relaxed.
He discussed how a former standout basketball player for Westerville North High School who went on to play at Ohio State University, Ohio University and several European teams came home and in 2017 bought Schneider’s, an iconic business that has been located in the heart of Uptown Westerville since 1954.
"I never grew up saying, ‘I want to be a baker,’" he said. "It was more the opportunity was there, and I’ve learned a lot."
Like, for instance, when one of the employees who fries doughnuts quits, the owner has to fill in.
His purchase of Schneider’s is the latest twist in an interesting life.
Basketball helped Stonerook find focus as a teen and allowed him to earn a comfortable living as an adult. But he always viewed the game more as a means to an end, and he now happily spends his time and energy on his family, his charitable foundation and his business.
"I’m very fortunate," said Stonerook, 42. "Basketball was great, but I’m very different when it comes to my basketball career. I never really grew up saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to play in the NBA.’ It’s a game."
Born in Tiffin, Stonerook was in foster care when, at 9 months old, he was adopted by Columbus residents Hank and Janet Stonerook, who have an older daughter, Amy.
After the couple divorced, Hank Stonerook moved to Westerville. Shaun joined him as he headed into high school, where he credited his father and Westerville North coach Dave Hoover with helping keep him on the right path.
"I was kind of having too much fun doing things and a little out of control," Stonerook said.
His father said, "He challenged a few things, but basically he was a good kid."
Stonerook helped Westerville North win a state championship in 1994. He played two seasons for Ohio State, averaging 10.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in 1995-96 and 1996-97, then transferred to Ohio University, where he was an All-Mid-American Conference player in 1998-99 and 1999-2000.
He had a tryout with the NBA’s New York Knicks, then went to Europe, playing a season in Belgium before moving to Cantu, Italy. That’s where he met his wife, Manuela, in 2002.
Asked what she liked about Stonerook, Manuela said, "At first, his hair," referring to his signature sprout of long curls. "But then, he does a lot of things that make you understand that he’s a good person."
Stonerook moved to a team in Siena, Italy, in 2005, and Manuela joined him there two years later. In 2012, Manuela was pregnant, and Stonerook decided it was time to give up basketball and move home.
"We had talked about it beforehand and I said, ‘Listen, I love Italy, but I’m not going to live here (forever),’" he said. "And I think opportunity-wise, it's better here (in America) for kids and family and everything."
The couple moved to Westerville, and their daughter, Alexi (now 7) was born. What followed was a period of adjustment. Manuela suffered through winters to which she was unaccustomed.
Stonerook, by choice, did not work for several years. He eventually took a job in the insurance field, but he said it was not something he particularly enjoyed.
Meanwhile, they had another child (son Kai, now 4) and Stonerook started the Shaun Stonerook Foundation.
At first, Stonerook focused the foundation’s efforts on helping families pay for adoptions. Now, he said he has shifted to helping kids in struggling school systems pay for private schools.
He also has partnered with Molly Rampe Thomas, founder of Choice Network, a nonprofit pregnancy care center and adoption agency. For several years, Stonerook and Rampe Thomas have organized a holiday party for kids in the foster-care system.
"I love his heart for kids," Rampe Thomas said. "He wants to level the playing field for underprivileged children."
During this time, Schneider’s owner Jeff Hamler was getting tired. He had owned the bakery since 1987, having bought it from its founder, Floyd Schneider, who opened it with his brother, Carl, in 1954.
It’s a beloved shop in town, with an old-school look and feel. On the days that Schneider’s opens at 1 or 1:30 a.m. (Tuesdays through Saturdays), students at nearby Otterbein University often grab a snack there after a night on the town.
"I was having thoughts of closing it down and walking away," Hamler said. "But I’d be a pariah out in (Westerville) society."
He said he had discussions with several potential buyers before Stonerook approached him. Stonerook purchased Schneider’s in the spring of 2017.
Stonerook said he had been looking to own a business, and this seemed like the right opportunity.
But as he has discovered, it’s hard work. The hours are long, aging equipment has broken down and good help can be hard to find.
Besides updating the equipment, Stonerook made other changes, such as accepting credit-card payments and raising prices.
"I've learned a lot," he said. "I love running the business. I love that. There’s a lot of it I don’t love."
His father said he hopes Shaun doesn’t get burned out. Manuela understands her husband’s long hours, and said Shaun is "an amazing father."
Stonerook said if he starts missing too much — his daughter’s gymnastics or ballet performances, or outings with his son who, like Shaun, loves to golf — he will sell Schneider’s.
But he isn’t planning on it coming to that.
"I’m real competitive, and I just think that once we change this and this, it’s going to be great," he said. "And I believe it, I love the business. I love the history of it and I love that people love it."
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