It didn’t take long after Vong Nou had flipped on the store lights and unlocked the doors early this morning when word began to spread that Echo Park Donuts had reopened. Customers started coming by in the pre-dawn darkness as Nou prepared the first batch of doughnuts since a fire on Sept. 11 had closed the store and others in the mini mall at Echo Park and Montana avenues. The reopening also marked a reunion of the mostly male, Spanish-speaking crowd of gardeners, cooks and retirees who had made Echo Park Donuts their regular meeting place.
Jose Rodriguez, a cook who had been patronizing a pastry shop on Sunset Boulevard since the fire, headed right over to Echo Park Donuts after a friend called him to say their favorite morning hang-out had reopened. “I like it here,” said Rodriguez, who has been coming by the store for coffee, doughnuts and conversation for about 20 years. “We talk about football. We talk about everything.”
Many store patrons had seemed a bit lost during the nearly month-long closure. Gardener Elias Alvaraz had sampled the doughnuts and coffee at Ms. Donut on Glendale Boulevard and another spot at Sunset Boulevard and Alvarado. But they were not the same as Echo Park Donuts, where Alavarez favored the cream-filled and chocolate varieties. “I don’t know what they put in them,” said Alvarez, who was interviewed a day before the store reopened.
Another Echo Park Donuts fan, Ed Sudgen, missed the old-fashioned maple doughnuts and the scene.
“They’re packed in the mornings with workers on the way to work, and [the owners] know the “usual” order of several regulars,” Sudgen said in an email. “It’s also a hotbed of lottery/Scratcher players– they have a TV screen for the Big Spot (keno) game that attracts seniors and others all day.”
Nou and his wife, Nancy, have managed the shop for about a year as part of a family business. Nancy Nou said customers would call them after the fire asking when they would reopen.
The Nous spent much of this morning welcoming back customers, some of whom who were fighting temptation in the form of trays filled with glazed and jelly-filled treats. Said Rodriguez: “My doctor told me not to have so much sugar.”