Donut Man: Making Pilgrimage to Glendora for Prized Dough

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Donut Man has grown nearly as iconic as Route 66 in Glendora.

Donut Man owner Jim Nakano was raised in East L.A. and migrated north to Ventura, where he became convinced he could succeed in the donut business. “It was the fact that I could do a better job than other places I went to, with donuts and service.” Jim also had a secret weapon: “My friend had a strawberry patch, so we came up with the fresh strawberry donut. Peach donuts were a natural follow-up.” The Nakanos had the winning formula, but they needed a storefront.

In the early 70’s, Ventura only housed 30,000 people, not a very big customer base, so the Nakanos looked elsewhere. According to Jim, “We just wanted a nice, quiet neighborhood, but we needed a place with more volume.” With the help of a real estate agent, Jim discovered the eastern San Gabriel Valley hamlet of Glendora, situated a mile from Glendora High School and near donut-starved Azusa Pacific University.

To learn how to make donuts, Jim “went to French bakeries to learn technique. They saw we were serious, so they were willing to help.” After that, the Nakanos practiced their craft until they were ready to sell to the public.

In 1972, Jim and his wife Miyako opened Donut Man in a former Orange Julius. The name comes from an experience Jim had at a local restaurant when he was just starting out. “We were at a restaurant when a little girl said, ‘There’s the donut man.’” The name stuck.

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Jim Nakano’s 24/7 donut shop resides alongside Historic Route 66.

The Donut Man menu lists a small selection of cake and raised donuts, bars, filled donuts, cinnamon rolls, fritters, claws and crullers. If you’re feeling dainty, there are also donut holes. The most expensive item on a regular basis is the $1.55 apple fritter. In season, the signature fresh peach and strawberry donuts cost $2.60 apiece, and are well worth it.

Sadly, I mistimed my visit and neither of Donut Man’s signature items was in season. According to Jim, “Strawberry season is from the end of January through July, sometimes to August. This year, with peaches, we went from August to September. It’s six to eight weeks, depending on the quality of the peaches.”

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I can vouch for Donut Man’s fresh strawberry donut, which I’ve eaten on more than one occasion.

The stellar four-inch-tall mass contains over half a pound of fresh strawberry chunks crammed into the sticky fresh-cut mouth of a hole-less donut. Donut Man’s other offerings are also expertly crafted.

Jim and his bakers make donuts once a day, either late at night or in the early morning. On Friday nights, fueled by a flood of college and high school students, the shop produces fresh donuts continuously from about 6 p.m. Jim loves the energy that the students bring to his tiny shop when they buy boxes of donuts and spill into the parking lot.

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Donut Man crullers come plain or coated with chocolate, maple, or vanilla glaze.

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The top shelf hosts donuts decorated with cream cheese and raspberry jam: dotted, squiggled and in star or heart patterns. Beyond that lies all manner of sprinkle-lined donuts.

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This three-tiered shelf features only half of the day’s offerings, colorful cake and raised doughnuts poured with rainbow sprinkles, orange, maple or cherry frosting, crushed peanuts, shredded coconut and more. Buttermilk bars appear the top right and bags of donut holes line the top left.

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The Donut Man uses dispensers to fill and top donuts with fresh cream and raspberry jam.

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Lisa has worked at Donut Man for a year-and-a-half and was proud to display her store spirit. Eric, a two-year Donut Man veteran, was equally excited to be working for Jim. He left in December to work at a local restaurant for two months, but he wasn’t nearly as happy, so Jim let him return.

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After gathering advice from Jim, Lisa and Eric, I walked away with a full donut box.

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Two members of the raspberry family joined one old fashioned cake donut.

My haul included cinnamon crumb ($0.75), apple-filled crumb ($1.10), raspberry-filled ($1.10), raspberry cream cheese ($1.30), plain cake ($0.75), maple bar ($1.05) and two tiger tails ($1.10 each), applied with a thin sheathe of frosting and striped with cinnamon. Two donuts came coated with cinnamon crumbs, one filled with delicious diced apples.

Jim last introduced a pumpkin cream cheese donut two or three years ago, made with real pumpkin. They’ll be available just before Halloween.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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