When Houth Hak and husband Sen Lay opened the Golden Donut in Orcutt at 5 a.m. Friday after four days off for the New Year’s holiday, a crowd of customers waiting outside flowed through the doors to buy coffee, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls and apple fritters.
That was just the start of a flood of doughnut lovers who inundated the shop all morning, so many the couple had to call in son Tommy and daughter Nicky and Hak’s brother and sister-in-law to help with sales and to churn out extra batches of doughnuts to meet the sudden, unexpected demand.
What Hak didn’t know — but soon found out — was that daughter Nicky had tweeted about how the opening of a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts franchise in Santa Maria had slashed business at the Golden Donut, jeopardizing its viability.
Hak said her sales have been down 30% since Krispy Kreme, which has more than 1,000 locations worldwide, opened in the Crossroads Shopping Center.
“My mom works so hard,” Nicky tweeted with a photo of her mother in the shop. “She still has people coming in saying they travel from different states to get her donuts but the Krispy Kreme that opened still puttin her out of business. I never seen my mama so sad.”
Loyal as well as new customers responded in droves.
“Some came in and gave me a hug,” Hak said. “Some said I took too much time off [for New Year’s]. They said I should only take one day.
“After I come back from a holiday, usually business is slow,” she added. “I didn’t even know what my daughter had done.”
By 11:30 a.m., as the rush of customers dwindled to a trickle, Hak said they had sold more than 300 boxes of doughnuts.
Based on a dozen doughnuts for a small box and a dozen and a half for a large box, plus purchases of fewer quantities by the bag and the hand, that worked out to more than 4,000 doughnuts — two to three times a pre-Krispy Kreme normal day’s sales.
Hak said she was shocked by the response, which she hopes will continue.
“I think the community is just the best to me,” she said. “They always support me. I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve never found any bad people in my shop yet. They are all nice and polite with me.”
Lay, Hak and her parents came to the United States from Cambodia in 1982, arriving in Rhode Island where their sponsor lived.
But it was too cold for her parents there, Hak said, so they lived in Van Nuys for six years before moving to Orcutt, where they purchased the doughnut shop in 1989.
Making doughnuts is something of a family tradition. Hak’s brother owns two doughnut shops in Santa Maria.
Since buying the Orcutt shop, Hak has become a fixture in the community, supporting school and other fundraisers and every day donating any doughnuts left over from the previous day to the Salvation Army.
Sitting at a corner table, Jim Zepeda was helping meet Friday’s doughnut demand by assembling and stacking hundreds of doughnut boxes, something he does every Thursday, although only 100 on those days.
“I travel a lot [up and down the coast] and I eat at all the doughnut shops,” Zepeda said, jabbing his forefinger into the table for emphasis. “There’s nothing like here.”
He noted people who move to other states always pick up two or three dozen Golden Donuts when they return.
“They always got to get their doughnuts before they visit family,” he said.
Sitting in his pickup outside the shop in the Oak Knolls Shopping Centers parking lot, Robert Ritter of Santa Barbara was eating a doughnut and drinking coffee as he reviewed a set of building plans.
“Yeah, I came by earlier, but there was so many people I left and came back later,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going on — I thought maybe a special sale? I’m not much into social media, so I didn’t know about the [tweet].
“I have to come up two or three times a month for business, and I always stop here for coffee and a fritter,” he continued. “They’re the best. But all the fritters were gone, so I had to settle for a couple of maple doughnuts.”
East of the shop, 5-year-old Karye Winkle yelled her opinion of the sprinkles-covered half doughnut she was eating as she walked along the sidewalk: “They’re yummy!”
“She loves coming here,” said her mom, Terye.