As the first Friday of June approaches every year, our mouths start to perceptibly water as we eagerly anticipate the coming of a great historical holiday—National Doughnut Day. Last year, we offered a detailed history of this fantastical food holiday, and years prior, we enjoyed scouting out vegan doughnut deals and highlighting the best cake and cream-filled pastries across the country. Like all the other holidays observed since mid-March of 2020, we expected that America would be celebrating National Doughnut Day a little differently this year, but one Southern California doughnut shop is allowing customers to revel in full Doughnut Day glory. This is the story of The Donuttery—a 24/7 doughnut shop that is providing a little bit of sweetness during the pandemic.  

 
 
 
 
 
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The early days
The Donuttery has been a Huntington Beach, CA institution since it first opened in 1970. This year marks the sweet shop’s fiftieth anniversary, and when the pandemic hit, the owners rallied to continue its service in a responsible way. Co-owners Ty Chan and Alyssa Chan held a meeting with their 26 staff members to decide on a course of action. The last time the shop closed was Christmas Day 2004, but the owners put the fate of the business in their staff. “Our staff unanimously voted to remain open and decided to take it one day at a time until new recommendations were issued with regards to restaurant closures,” said Alyssa. She continued, “Today, everyone pre-COVID-19 remains on staff, with some former members returning as COVID-19 has left so many unemployed.”

Safety first
A typical night at the Donuttery pre-pandemic was characterized with a line out the door, people hovering over each other trying to get a glimpse of the towering trays of doughnuts behind the counter, and just the right amount of controlled chaos amongst the ever-present intoxicating aroma of fried dough and sugar. Obviously, things had to change. The shop implemented six-feet-apart markers to queue customers in line, hoisted plastic barriers at the service counter, mandated mask-wearing for employees and patrons, and limited the number of customers in the shop to five at a time. While safety was her top priority, Alyssa noted, “We also want people to be able to enjoy seeing the wide selection of doughnuts in person. The anticipation and selection process is as exciting as the experience of eating one.”

 
 
 
 
 
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Doughnuts during a pandemic
“There was a slowdown affecting sales in the weeks following the shelter-at-home mandate. People may have been afraid to leave their homes for non-essential things. We saw an escalation in delivery orders through Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grubhub, but that wasn’t enough to compensate for the lost revenues following shelter-at-home,” explained Alyssa. However, after implementing online orders and curbside pickup, and as residents began to adjust to the new normal, business picked up. Today, sales have returned to normal. In an era where many businesses are closed or operate on limited hours, knowing you can get a simple glazed vegan doughnut at any time of day or night is a true comfort. 

The line
First, a disclaimer: while you technically can get a doughnut at any time, your craving may have to wait a bit depending on the time you arrive. Alyssa noted that the busiest hours are between 8-11am and 6pm-12am. The longest line the shop experienced during these past few months stretched about 350 feet at about midnight on a Friday. This may not seem long compared to theme park standards, but when you factor in the inherent indecisiveness customers face as they stare open-mouthed at a wall of doughnuts, that line took over an hour. Alyssa describes the look of new-comers to the shop as “a kid in a candy store.”  

 
 
 
 
 
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All the vegan doughnuts
The Donuttery isn’t an entirely vegan establishment, but its vegan-friendly selection is far more elaborate than any other non-vegan doughnut shop. Let’s just say you could order a baker’s dozen and still not sample all the vegan options. Unlike some of the newer bakeries that crank out Instagram-perfect fried confections, The Donuttery’s style is completely old school. You won’t find any edible glitter or animal-shaped pastries here, but the taste and texture don’t need any adornments. In fact, the most humble-looking vegan option—the unfrosted blueberry cake doughnut—is one of the best-sellers. Other popular options, according to Alyssa, include the maple Long John, giant apple fritter, PB&J (yeasted jelly doughnut topped with crushed peanuts and a peanut butter glaze), chocolate chip bar, and the gluten-free matcha tea cake. When asked what her personal favorite was, Alyssa replied, “I love cake, but I can’t live without sliced [raised] bread. Vanilla sprinkles and maple Long John are my favorites in the two major doughnut languages.”

Customers from near and far
It’s not just Orange County residents who have had the immense pleasure of biting into a vegan custard-filled doughnut; people have road-tripped to get their sugar fix. Alyssa said, “People on Instagram have shared their story of traveling from Vegas, San Jose, and Phoenix. A scientist once came in for a box of vegan maple Long Johns and said he had been craving them while doing his research work in Antarctica. His story was so endearing we ended up just giving him the donuts for free.”

 
 
 
 
 
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National Doughnut Day plans
“For more than 10 years, National Doughnut Day has meant a shoulder-to-shoulder line for 24 hours for a dozen doughnuts offered at half price. This year, it will be the same special deal along with social distancing and masks with doughnuts on-the-go. No hanging around. No fun selfies with the staff. A bit somber but, nonetheless, sweet.”

If you’re planning on visiting The Donuttery to celebrate the holiday, order what calls to you, but don’t skip Alyssa’s recommendations—the apple fritter and pistachio cake. “The apple fritter is fried dough perfection—crunchy on the outside and fragrantly moist with cinnamon apple chunks inside. It’s a balance of sweet and tangy notes with textural contrast that is the tastiest doughnut you’ll ever eat. Our pistachio cake is special. We roast and mill the pistachios in-house. It’s crumbly and light with flavors redolent of butter and sweet hints of marzipan.” 

Happy National Doughnut Day. May it be filled with glaze and sprinkles. 

Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and runner living in Orange County, CA.

Photo credit: @kellybone

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