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The Donut Man will bring its delectable, fruit-filled doughnuts to Grand Central Market

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The Donut Man founder Jim Nakano with a tray of his strawberry donuts in 2011. The beloved shop will expand to downtown L.A.'s Grand Central Market next year.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

There’s nothing like a strawberry doughnut from the Donut Man — a pillowy-soft clamshell of sweet, glazed dough stuffed embarrassingly full with ripe, red fruit. But the store’s Glendora location, at least a 30-minute drive from downtown L.A. (with no traffic, mind you), had for decades relegated the treats to a special-occasion detour, or perhaps a stop on the way to Las Vegas.

Soon, that road trip will no longer be necessary: After almost 50 years, the Donut Man is opening a second location.

Starting in February, the Donut Man will occupy a stall in downtown’s historic Grand Central Market, finally extending its sweet, sticky reach into Los Angeles proper.

I sent Stacy Michelson to do one of her trademark illustrations explaining and exploring the glory of the strawberry doughnut at Donut Man in Glendora.

The store will be located on the Broadway side of the market in stall A-1, near Eggslut and carnitas specialist Villa Moreliana. Unlike the original shop, which is open 24/7, the Grand Central location will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Operations in Glendora will continue unchanged.

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Jim Nakano, a third-generation Japanese American from Boyle Heights who fell in love with Helms Bakery truck doughnuts as a kid, began the business with his wife in 1972; he gave up his job as a department store manager to become the Donut Man.

But despite the popular and critical success of the shop over the years, the Nakanos never expanded the business.

Strawberry Man

Strawberry doughnuts from the Donut Man in Glendora.

(Stacy Michelson)

With Grand Central, the timing seems right, general manager Aaron Wearp said.

“We have a big enough following and group of fans that we can’t produce what we would like to at one location,” Wearp said. “It’s impossible — during our busiest times we’re running out of doughnuts.”

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Wearp cites the 100-plus-year history of the market as a deciding factor. “The market is a very historical place and the Donut Man is on Historic Route 66,” he said. “We felt like it would be great to partner with someone who cherishes that history.”

The shop will feature 18 racks of doughnuts, many of which will be familiar to fans of the Donut Man. The fresh peach donuts will be there during the summer, as will the famous strawberry-filled doughnuts. The opening of the shop is being timed, not coincidentally, to the beginning of strawberry doughnut season, which runs through approximately September.

The Donut Man was a favorite of the late Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, who lauded the celestial strawberry creations in a 2011 L.A. Weekly piece, as well as the “French crullers that melt away in your mouth, glazed doughnuts as light as froth, fresh peach doughnuts in season that capture the soft light of California summer accurately as Beach Boys songs.”

The location of the shop positions the new Donut Man near Jonathan Gold Plaza, by a silhouette and plaque honoring the longtime critic.

“He’d probably think it was pretty cool,” Wearp said.


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