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Donut Man Runs Rings Around the Competition

by Andrea Lita Rademan, photo credit: Carol Williams

Some days it seems as if all of Los Angeles is lined up in front of the Donut Man’s modest shack in Glendora, an outlying suburb of this sprawling city. People crowd the two rickety wooden benches on the tiny front porch and snake around the building, sucking in the aromas of ripe fruit, sugary glaze and yeasty dough. Regulars include local college students, young mothers wheeling strollers, road-weary truck drivers, and the occasional celebrity (Roy Rogers and Elvis loved them — Jessie Jackson and Anthony Robbins still do). Fanatics drive for hours to get here, only to wait for the first batch of the day with the reverence of pilgrims on El Camino de Santiago. The sky is still dark and they’re already lined up, anxiously waiting.

For enlightenment? Not really. Salvation? Sort of. Fulfillment? Absolutely. They’re here for doughnuts, the simple sweet of indeterminate origin that Americans popularized far beyond our own borders.

It’s ironic that some of the very best of these iconic treats are made by an American-born Japanese perfectionist who spent part of his childhood in a relocation camp during World War II. The experience left his family bitter and broken but not defeated. Jim worked his way through college and then served in the military. While employed in a management position at J.C. Penney, he took a trip to Europe. There he met Miyoko, the woman who would be his life partner. In 1969 they flew to Japan where, with family and friends as witnesses, they married.

After settling in Glendora, California, they bought a doughnut franchise. But Jim had an unconventional idea of what a doughnut should be and the pair set out to prove it. As independent owners, they turned their modest, cash-only, open-around-the-clock business into a mecca for the best doughnuts in the city, and quite possibly anywhere. Forget Krispy Kreme, Stan's, Randy's, Bob's and Blinkie's — for doughnut nirvana, a doughnut of greatness to the tenth power, one that is the quintessence of doughnutness, there is no match for the handmade beauties of Jim Nakano, the Donut Man.

So park your car in the back lot and walk past the stacks of empty wooden crates that once held the juiciest strawberries, the ripest peaches, or other locally grown seasonal fruits that met Nakano’s exacting standards. Whoever said you can’t improve on Mother Nature had not tasted Jim’s handcrafted, 3/4-or-so pound beauties.

As tension builds and tummies rumble, Jim halves a fluffy, yeast dough pillow with the precision of a samurai swordsman and stuffs it to overflowing with vine- or tree-ripened fruit embedded in hand-mixed fresh fruit glaze. “It looks easy but it’s a tremendous amount of work,” admits the modest Nakano as he bestows his creation on whichever supplicant has the good fortune to be next in line. Ha-lle-lu-jah!

Jim does custom and holiday donuts, and even his standards — buttermilk bars, glazed cream cheese, tiger tails, toasted coconut crumb, rainbow-sprinkled, nutmeg-flecked cake donuts and buttery cinnamon rolls — elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary. “I don’t come from doughnuts,” says Jim. But in Southern California, which, with its 1,600 doughnut shops, is the doughnut capital of the world, he’s definitely arrived.


Donut Man
915 E. Alosta Avenue
Glendora, California 91741
(626) 963-7412
Open 24 hours

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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