Randy’s Donuts, coming to Costa Mesa March 9, is on the rise in the hands of a Newport Beach family

Newport Beach resident Mark Kelegian purchased L.A.'s iconic Randy's Donuts in 2015.
Newport Beach’s Mark Kelegian purchased Randy’s Donuts in Inglewood in 2015 to run as a family business. On March 9, he and his daughters will open their fifth store with big plans for the future.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Newport Beach resident Mark Kelegian was operating casinos with his dad and brother in 2015 when he started thinking about a business he might run with his wife and three daughters.

A quick search at online marketplace returned a hit. “Fifty-year-old well-known restaurant for sale,” read the posting. No name was listed.

“I’m thinking it’s probably one of those old Jewish delis on the West side or in Beverly Hills,” he recalled. “So, I called up, and this girl answered, ‘Randy’s Donuts.’”

An entrepreneur and former practicing attorney for nearly 20 years, Kelegian thought he knew an opportunity when he saw it. He made his move, and in the span of a single transaction had purchased an L.A. icon.

First as Big Donut Drive-in, and later Randy’s, the location has been slinging dough from a 750-square-foot shop in Inglewood since Eisenhower took office, but a draw to tourists and locals alike has been the massive, doughnut-shaped sign perched atop its tiny roof. Composed of gunite, a mixture of sand, cement and water used in swimming pools, the pastry stands proud at 32 feet.

The iconic Randy's Donuts in in Inglewood in October.
Randy’s Donuts was run by two brothers as a single store from 1978 to 2015, when Newport Beach resident Mark Kelegian purchased it with a plan to grow it into a global brand.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

But while its sign was colossal, Randy’s business model was bite-size. Brothers Ron and Larry Weintraub purchased the shop in 1978, retained the name and ran it as a single storefront for the next 37 years.

Only in Kelegian’s hands would the iconic L.A. bakery rise to world prominence. After studying the ins and outs of the Inglewood store for more than a year, the family-owned business began branching out.

Since 2017, Sansmark, Inc. — which aggregates the initials of wife Shelly and daughters Ashley, Nicolette and Susan with Kelegian’s own first name — has opened locations in El Segundo, Pasadena, Torrance and Downey and worked out deals with franchisees in Korea and Saudi Arabia.

They’re setting sights next on stores in Santa Monica, Bakersfield and Burbank and have plans in the works for more franchises in France, Egypt, Kuwait and Morocco.

The Kelegian family at the July 2019 wedding of T.J. McCaffery and Nicolette Kelegian.
Ashley Kelegian, from left, Susan Kelegian, T.J. McCaffrey and Nicolette Kelegian, with Shelly and Mark Kelegian in July 2019.
(Courtesy of Ashley Kelegian)

“My interest all along has been to expand the brand. I think it could be the next big doughnut franchise chain in the nation and the world,” Kelegian said. “So, we’re going to be making big pushes domestically and internationally, but we’re always going to be about the doughnuts.”

The Kelegian family will celebrate a homecoming on March 9, when a new Randy’s Donuts open its doors in Costa Mesa. It’s the first of many shops planned for Orange County.

Ashley and Nicolette will be on hand to help things run smoothly. Head baker Ishmael Garcia, who started at Randy’s decades ago, will be in the kitchen overseeing quality control. Even the Weintraub brothers themselves have been known to turn up at store openings.

“We’re so fortunate to work for such an iconic brand,” said Nicolette Kelegian, 28, who studied broadcast journalism at USC and worked as a talent agent before joining her dad in 2016. “We’re creating a shoe and franchising. There’s so many different pieces, and I try to get my hand in all these parts — it’s exciting.”

Like the Inglewood and Downey locations, the Costa Mesa store will feature its own rooftop doughnut, a sign that defies city ordinances but was approved in November. At 25 feet in diameter, the fiberglass figure is supported by steel interior beams and weighs more than 15,000 pounds. Bright and early Tuesday, the behemoth traveled from its birthplace in San Pedro, south on Pacific Coast Highway to Harbor Boulevard.

During the morning installation, drivers slowed down to see the spectacle while pedestrians snapped selfies with the giant baked good and news of the opening spread like wildfire across local social media circles.

Ashley Kelegian, 27 — who studied communications at USC and worked as a purchaser for New York’s Bergdorf Goodman department store before segueing to a corporate-level position at Shake Shack and eventually being folded into the family enterprise — says while the iconic signs are a draw, there’s much more to Randy’s Donuts.

“I think it comes down to good quality,” she said. “People are standing in line for hours on opening day because it’s just a good doughnut.”

The Costa Mesa Randy’s Donuts, at 2930 Harbor Blvd., opens March 9 at 6 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony planned for 11 a.m.

A freshly manufactured 25-foot-tall Randy's Donuts sign is installed along Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa on Thursday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

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