Last Chance to Pick Up Your Iconic Strawberry Donut from Donut Man Glendora!

Featured image: The Donut Man

In the Greater Los Angeles area, it can sometimes seem like there are more buildings that are donut shops than aren’t. Seriously, for a city of people that look so fit, we sure love our donuts. It makes it a nearly impossible task for a donut shop to stand out from the rest. But The Donut Man Glendora residents have been swarming for years never really seemed to have that problem. Maybe it’s that their donuts are served fresh and piping hot to throngs of patrons 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Or perhaps it’s that each donut is carefully crafted by hand. It could also be their award-winning nationally recognized strawberry donut… that you sadly have a few days, tops, to enjoy before it’s out of season. 

The Man Before the Donuts

Jim Nakano of Donut Man Glendora and Los Angeles
Photo credit: The Donut Man

Before he was the Donut Man, Jim Nakano was a rising department manager at a J.C. Penney department store. As an American of Japanese ethnicity, he’d had to overcome a hardship shared by many Japanese-Americans growing up in the 1940s: the political landscape circa World War II. 

Nakano was just two-years old when he and his family were incarcerated in an internment camp in Poston, Arizona. It wasn’t until 1945 that they were able to return to East LA. After obtaining his degree in marketing from California State University, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy.  

In the early ‘70s, Jim would often discuss the pursuit of the American dream with his wife Miyoko after his long days at J.C. Penney. After some deliberation, she encouraged him to open his own donut shop. In May 1972, The Donut Man unveiled its iconic Glendora location along Route 66. II was a Foster’s Donuts in those days; part of a franchise. 

Some Things Never Change

Donut Man Glendora when it was Fosters Donuts
Photo credit: The Donut Man

It seems incredible that over half a century later, the Donut Man Glendora location is still slinging fresh donuts 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Well, incredible to anyone who hasn’t tried their blissful strawberry donut. The Donut Man looks almost identical to how it appeared on that fateful day in May 1972 when it first welcomed the people of Glendora and beyond into its sugary splendor. 

One glaringly apparent difference long-time customers will notice: Miyoko no longer works the front register. Until 1980, she was a fixture of the Donut Man experience. Though she retired to focus on other life pursuits, her passion for sterling service continues to saturate the hard-working staff of the donut shop to this day. 

But it’s staggering how the rest of the Donut Man Glendora location echoes the past so clearly. Expect the same recipes. The same fresh ingredients. Even the same methods: donuts are painstakingly cut, crafted, fried, and flavored right in front of the waiting customers’ eyes. It’s like foodie voyeurism. 

Photo credit: The Donut Man

Until fairly recently, morning visitors could count on Jim Nakano making his way through the line to greet his hungry customers, coffee and buttermilk donut in hand. Notice we didn’t write when there’s a line. There’s always a line. 

It wasn’t until the 1980s that The Donut Man officially became The Donut Man. While assessing his leap into independence, Nakano was out to dinner with a friend when a young girl recognized him. “Look, it’s the Donut Man!” she happily proclaimed. Nakano didn’t need his background in marketing to recognize a moniker with that kind of sticking power. 

Donut Man’s Legendary Strawberry Donut

At any given time, you can find about two dozen creative selections on offer at The Donut Man. But the most iconic of Nakano’s creations (and the one that put The Donut Man Glendora on the map) remains the strawberry donut. There’s a culinary genius in its simplicity. Basically, a powdered donut is bisected, then stuffed beyond the breaking point with fresh cut strawberries in a glistening confectioner’s glaze. As the saying goes: often imitated, never duplicated. 

Photo credit: The Donut Man

The Donut Man’s strawberry donut was born from Nakano’s spontaneous intuition, persistent perfectionism, and more than a dash of fate. It was sometime in the mid-’70s when he got a visit from a Glendora farmer who mentioned, while picking up his morning donut, that he had too many strawberries. In fact, the entirety of Glendora’s strawberry farms had overproduced that year. The farmer suggested Nakano put a dent in his stock by somehow working them into his donuts. Thus an unlikely LA star was born.

Of course, there was a lot more to bringing the strawberry donut to reality than slapping some fresh strawberries and a donut together. Nakano met up with a friend of his who ran a bakery, sharing his idea for the strawberry donut as well as some of his reservations. The baker gave him some starter equipment and a recipe for fruit glaze reformulated slightly for use with donuts. Even then, Nakano spent time meticulously trying to strike just the right balance of sweetness. 

To say his efforts paid off would be an understatement. The Donut Man’s strawberry donut pulled the attention of The Food Network, The Cooking Channel… even California legend Huell Howser. In 2015, KCET awarded it its prestigious “Most Iconic Dish” award. 

The Dark Side of the Strawberry

Photo credit: The Donut Man

There’s just one catch with the strawberry donut. Nakano’s unerring commitment to fresh ingredients means that his most popular donut is only available for a brief window every year. And that window typically runs from mid-February until the early weeks of autumn. Yes, that means if you’re reading this at the time of publication, you probably have days at most to try this delectable donut until it’s gone for the year. 

If you think that’s harsh, The Donut Man’s peach donut, which gives the strawberry donut a pretty good run for its money, is only available from mid-July until a few weeks into August… if you’re lucky. It’s the price of freshness. 

Nakano refuses to use frozen ingredients or produce past its prime. That uncompromising spirit maintains The Donut Man’s peerless quality… but also keeps fans glued to their social media for announcements on when certain donuts are available. And even at the 24/7 The Donut Man Glendora location, you need to beat the morning rush before some of those offerings are depleted for the day. 

It’s Not “The Strawberry Man”

Photo credit: The Donut Man

Obviously, Nakano is proud of the strawberry donut, but puts just as much creativity, quality, and care into his other offerings. So, even when strawberries and peaches are out of season, there is something for everyone at the historic donut shop. Year round classics like cinnamon rolls and chocolate frosted donuts move just as quickly as seasonal treats like pumpkin or raspberry cream. 

Another crowd favorite is the tiger tail. Unlike tiger tails produced by other donut shops, The Donut Man works devil’s food cake into their take on the classic. It gives the foot long twist an extra richness that turns first-time customers into loyal patrons. 

But there’s more at play setting The Donut Man apart than fresh ingredients, quality control, and creative thinking. The recipe for their base donut doesn’t use your typical dough. Cooking oil is changed more frequently than the industry standard. Donuts are fried at higher temperatures. It all comes together to create an all-around different taste and texture than what we’ve come to expect from a donut. 

Looking Beyond The Donut Man Glendora

Photo credit: The Donut Man

For decades, The Donut Man Glendora offered the only means of experiencing Nakano’s various creations. But that changed in June of 2020 when they opened a second location in Downtown LA. Located in Grand Central Market, the new location doesn’t have round-the-clock hours like The Donut Man Glendora. But it does offer the same recipes and quality that people have come to expect. And, yes, the same lines. With Nakano’s father having regularly delivered produce to the Grand Central Market, the second location has hints of that homecoming feeling. After all, Nakano called East LA home for his formative years. 

Yet, with the original Donut Man Glendora still going strong just off Route 66, it feels very much rooted in that community. That location even inspired a $1,000 answer on an episode of Jeopardy. You still might have time to catch the end of the strawberry donut run this year, but those days are rapidly dwindling. Just bring cash. And maybe a book, since there will be a line. 

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