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Popular Citrus Heights donut shop staying afloat during pandemic

Van Hong stands inside his Donut King shop in Citrus Heights. // M. Hazlip

By Mike Hazlip–
Donut King, a prominent fixture at the corner of Greenback Lane and San Juan Avenue, has been churning out batch after batch of the sweet morning staple, 24-hours-a-day, for nearly three decades.

The Sentinel talked with the current owner, 54-year-old Van Hong, on Friday for an inside look at how the family owned establishment operates.

Hong took over the business from his older brother just before the Coronavirus hit, in an effort to keep the long-running shop open.

“It’s a hassle to make donuts and sell at the same time,” said Hong. “(But) since it’s here already, and it’s a good location traffic wise, I thought it’s a good idea just to keep it open.”

Like many other businesses affected by the COVID-19 shutdown orders, Hong said his donut shop has slowed down, but he’s been able to remain open for takeout orders.

Hong said the original owner — a family friend — took over the location, a former Winchell’s Donuts, in the 1980s and little has changed over the years. His brother later took over the shop and maintained the original Winchell’s lighting, tables, and wallpaper which can still be seen inside the shop, along with the original display case.

Hong and other family members make between two and four batches of pastries every day. Business picks up during colder months as customers start coming in early for a hot coffee and a donut.

“It’s a lot of work, a lot of hard work,” Hong said. “You have to get up early in the morning — two o’clock, three o’clock in the morning — and come and make donuts. Get ready by four or five a.m.”

The dough is made from scratch, and the donuts are hand-cut and fried using wooden dowels to flip each one in the oil.

“The key is to make them fresh,” Hong said of the process. “We make them throughout the day since it’s 24 hours.”

Hong immigrated to California from Cambodia with his parents and four siblings at the age of 12. His parents recently passed away; his father in his 80s and mother in her 90s.

“They had a good life, a rough life,” Hong said of his parents. “We love this country. Lucky to be here.”

Hong has four children himself, with the youngest just 10 months old and the oldest being 30. He said his older children are pursuing other interests outside of the family business, but other members of his extended family work with him at the shop.

Hong credits his longtime customers with helping the business stay afloat during the COVID-19 crisis and is grateful for the support.

“I’d like to say thank you to all the customers that come by and support us during this hard time, and the time before. We appreciate it.”

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