News


Happy Donuts to close on Friday

Barron Park establishment lost contract, to reopen in San Jose

One of the two sit-down places in Palo Alto where one can hang out or satisfy a 3 a.m. craving, Happy Donuts at 3916 El Camino Real, is closing on Friday, June 6.

Doughnut seekers who approached the Barron Park neighborhood establishment were stunned and saddened by the news on Wednesday after reading the signs on the doors that indicated the last cruller or jelly doughnut will be served at 10 p.m.

Owner Soknea Hort said the store lost its contract, but Happy Donuts has a new location at 1062 S. De Anza Blvd., Suite C101 in San Jose. She wants to reopen in Palo Alto and is looking for a space.

"Thank you for your support of us at this location," she wrote in an email. "My husband and I have had the business for 6 years. That is our first business in Palo Alto."

Almost every year, she has supported high school students by making T-shirts for Spartan athletes and she has supported nonprofits in Palo Alto. And every Friday, Happy Donuts has donated two dozen donuts to Barron Park Elementary School, she said.

Tim Whiting and Julie Fife said they were stunned and saddened by the restaurant's closing, which is one of Palo Alto's last to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- the other is Subway on University Avenue. The shop has been a lifeline for late-night sustenance among Stanford and high school students studying for exams, they said.

"Everybody from Stanford has a story about something they did in this place," Whiting said. "A doughnut was a doughnut to me before. This is the first place where I thought, 'Oh, I'll have to get a Happy Donut.'"

"I'm glad we're moving," Fife added, saying it would be sad to live in Palo Alto and not see Happy Donuts here anymore.

Happy Donuts has been a hangout for insomniacs, students and other nighttime denizens. The store is packed on weekend nights.

Another customer, Bill, who asked not to use his last name, said Happy Donuts has been a meeting place for business people as well as students. He used to meet people there and set up laptops, working on projects over coffee and doughnuts. His son, Alex, said his favorite is chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate crumbs.

"It's a landmark. They have the best doughnuts in town -- they really do," Bill said.

Barron Park resident Jean Doten has been a customer for 15 years. The wide tables were perfect for grading papers when Doten was a teacher, she said.

She would hang out at Happy Donuts with her four daughters when they were in high school. The staff got to know the family and would sometimes add a few extra doughnut holes to their order.

"One Easter Sunday I stopped by at 1:30 a.m. on my way home from the Vigil Mass and had a wonderful conversation about the Easter customs of the Philippines with the young man who has been doing the late shift for years.

"In order to avoid getting into a shouting match in public my ex-husband and I would choose the congenial atmosphere of 'Happy D's' for a rendezvous there whenever we had anything stressful to discuss. To this day if he has to hang around town he settles there with his laptop and invites me over for a chat," she said.

Happy Donuts has had several owners over the years. There are a number of stores from San Francisco to San Jose bearing the name but with different owners, an employee at a different San Jose location said.

What will replace Happy Donuts at its current location remains unknown. Some workers indicated that a doughnut shop could reopen at the site under a different owner in a few days. Other employees on the night shift said the store is closing forever.

Hort did not elaborate on what would replace the current Palo Alto store. Requests for comment to the property owner were not returned. But a relative of the owner said the family does not intend to sell the property.

Comments

Posted by porter, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2014 at 10:24 am

... and they have absolutely the best doughnuts anywhere in the south Bay area. What are we going to do?!!


Posted by disgusted, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 5, 2014 at 10:43 am

Wow! The Boardwalk in Mountain View closed yesterday, victims of greedy landlords. Going to build more housing. More housing to promote more over crowding, more smug, arrogant newcomers, more traffic. What's happening to this valley is heartbreaking. Mind you, most of these businesses that are closing are profitable and popular. They have become part of the community. Unfortunately, not profitable enough to pay the exorbitant rent demands of the greedy awful landlords. I would give anything to turn the clock back to a time when Palo Alto was a kinder, gentler place with more interest in community than the almighty dollar.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 10:50 am

There were other things going on near Happy Donuts that we will not miss. No fault of the chain or operators, just due to the fact it was open all night.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:05 am

@neighbor, over the years even my oblique comments about characters around Happy Donuts were deleted. Nevertheless, I was a regular wee-hour customer and will miss the place.

Regarding the first sentence of the article, isn't Subway on University open 24 hours?


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:08 am

So sad! Even more so that I'm on crutches and can't get there before they close!


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:08 am

So sad! Even more so that I'm on crutches and can't get there before they close!


Posted by Republican, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:16 am

Something tells me the abusive police had something to do with this. They always like to flex their muscles. Make their job easier at late night and close down all establishments!!


Posted by Stephen Hawking, a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:19 am

So sad! Even more so that I'm on crutches and can't get there before they close!


Posted by Tea Party, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:21 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by TimH, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:32 am

It's hard to believe that all of the small businesses on the block where Happy Donuts has been are paying top-dollar rents, so I'd believe that it's just another individual land owner who wants more money, or simply to rent to a "daytime" business that won't get police attention at night. We do have a problem with the same-old-greedy-landowner story (now a Palo Alto tradition) but this time might have more to the story.


Posted by Happy Donut fan, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:39 am

Noooo!! This makes me so sad. I took my daughters here when they were young and would get my Dad a buttermilk donut here after he couldn't drive anymore. On more Palo Alto memory fading out.


Posted by Helen , a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:40 am

probably gonna make room for another heartless froyo place


Posted by Paly parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:54 am

The Valley of Heart's Delight has become the golden egg (as in Aesop's fable).


Posted by Sue Dremann, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Thanks, musical. You are correct -- I just verified that Subway on University is open 24/7. I have corrected the story.


Posted by Palo Altan, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 5, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Tomorrow (Friday) is National Donut Day but Happy Donuts is not giving out free donuts - they probably want every last cent, being it's their last day open - they close at 10:00PM. National Donut Day is not a good day for them to find that last cent because people may be getting their donut fix from Krispy Kreme donuts tomorrow because the Mountain View store is giving out free donuts all day.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 5, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Noooo! I used to study there all the time, and still pick up donuts for the office a couple times a month. The donuts are actually some of the best on the peninsula.


Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

Now where will go to see borderline personality disorder types go batsh-- crazy if you DARE take 1mm of that table space they have obviously sectioned off with their books and their extension cords?


Posted by coppp, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2014 at 3:37 pm

police monitor that place, bad for business anyway.


Posted by Sally, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 5, 2014 at 3:47 pm

If only we can now get rid of Jack-in-the-Box in College Terrace! It is a magnet for so many sketchy characters, especially late at night. It also draws in car campers.


Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

The new Safeway at San Antonio had to start closing off their "cafe" area at night because of problems with late night people. Not sure if they still do or not. Not much good happens after 2am


Posted by Jonathan, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Lyon's. Denny's. Now The Boardwalk and Happy Donuts.
This new trend of long-standing places announcing they're
closing with only a few days notice is really disturbing,
though. How long has Happy Donuts been there? The article
doesn't say.


Posted by Palo Altan, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 5, 2014 at 4:21 pm

"She is looking for a new location in Palo Alto to open in soon, she added."

How can a donut shop with customers sipping on coffee and sitting there for hours possibly be able to pay for Palo Alto rental space? Would be nice, but . . .


Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

So who remembers the UA theaters in downtown San Jose? The Camera theaters and their fans went off the deep end saying it will destroy indie cinema and force them to close etc etc. In the end UA went belly up and Camera took over the UA theaters... Like rain on your wedding day.... Let's skip the histrionics until we see the how and why of everything.


Posted by Dennis, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 5, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Why all this sentimentality about a small overpriced sugar laden gut bomb donut shop that not only was an eye sore but an overnight haven [portion removed.] Don't even bat an eye over the owner, they still own the property, and they will put a business on that land that will be more profitable to them. It is all money like everything else. And to those people that thought these were the best donuts around haven't really had a good donut. Like I said before they were overpriced, sugar laden gut bombs. Get a life!


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 5, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Lyon's and Denny's went out a long time ago. Maybe before Happy Donuts came here. I believe I had a muffler replaced in that building some decades back.

Donut shops generally have more business than meets the eye, due to corporate orders and catering. I've seen people pick up several of those large pink Happy Donut boxes between 6 and 7 am.

Yes Sparty, the San Antonio Safeway still closes their cafe area. I knew at the beginning that 24-hour availability wouldn't last. Late night panhandlers in the parking lot weren't helping. If you ever shop there after midnite, bring a flashlite -- that Safeway shuts off much of their lighting. Nice thing about wee hours is minimal traffic and easy parking.

As the price went to a dollar a donut, another old phrase became obsolete.


Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 5:10 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

Having a SIT DOWN place like HD for a really late snack was a godsend for weary service techs that finished up at 02:00.
Having it on my way home in BP was perfect (and the Apple fritters were YUM!)


Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

Before the new San Antonio shopping center opened, they already had the furniture out at the corner, by Jared... There were people sleeping there at night. Until they got security I suppose.

Everyone should(?) go out after 10pm. The comments I've seen about PA and Mt View are pretty amazing. Quite obviously people who are safe at home to catch Dennis Richmond. The Utopia you knew 1,5, 10 years ago didn't exist. I've got a good amount of photos from downtown Paly of fights and the aftermath..

And apparently everyone has forgotten the choice characters that used to hang out in Lytton Plaza. Weekends we had 3 or 4 PAPD officers and for some reason CHPs hanging out there. Looks like it is starting to slip again. There are a lot of mentally ill people who hang out there. Usual stuff. Making comments to scare/get a rise out of people. Last time I was down there there was a lady carrying a box of clothes who just started changing right there next to the fountain.

I've only been to Happy Donuts a few times, it was either just ok, or as in the case of the last visit, stale

"Why is it whenever somebody dies, it's always 'Good old Joe'" ~~ The Cowboys, 1972


Posted by HappyD, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 5, 2014 at 5:36 pm

My fiancé and I fell in love there. Many late nights spent laughing and talking intensely over a happy donut (or 4).


Posted by what, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Exactly what contract did they lose? Is their landlord kicking them out?


Posted by homeless advocate, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 5, 2014 at 7:01 pm

The homeless need Happy Donuts. It's one of the last places they can be inside at night.


Posted by HUTCH 7.62, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 5, 2014 at 7:31 pm

@Sparty

I'm sure the 'new' Palo Altans have no idea that Ventura and Addison streets oncnce had there own respective street gangs called 'V street' and 'A street'.


Shame Happy Donuts is closing...another Palo Alto institution lost to the wheels of so called progress.


Posted by latenighter, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 8:59 pm

When I spoke with several of the employees yesterday, my understanding was that they would be closing, but the location would be remodeled and reopened with a new franchise owner.


Posted by Community lover, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Some people posting here seem to have an irrational fear of "questionable people", AKA anyone who doesn't fit the look of a good person.


Posted by Holey Donuts, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 5, 2014 at 10:11 pm

@Sparty

Dennis Richmond? The KTVU news guy who retired in 2008?

Have you noticed he's gone?


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 6, 2014 at 2:24 am

Happy Donuts was pretty busy with hordes of young people an hour ago. A few old fashioned were all that remained in the cases, but the cashier said there'd be more fresh assorted in a couple hours. Difficult to know for sure. I'm worried which establishment will be next...


Posted by Chuck Jagoda, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 6, 2014 at 9:19 am

Chuck Jagoda is a registered user.

Happy Donuts is a great institution. I have been going there as long as I've been visiting and living in Palo Alto--about 10 years.

It IS a refuge for homeless people. To the people who are concerned about the impoverished people who hang out there at night--where would you have us go? To YOUR house? If you and the City are not going to provide some overnight haven-- why do you object to havens that others provide?

And it is also a haven for the most advanced intellectuals! I've heard languages I couldn't identify; seen books on subjects way beyond most of us; and seen workers doing important work there at all hours.

It's actually a really good business: the ovens have to be baking the next mornings' orders anyway. So keeping it open all night is not a big expense. And yes-- there are lots of pink boxes that are filled and ready for people to pick up the next morning.

It's nice when a City or County provides services for those impoverished by the current economic transfer of wealth from poor to rich-- the greatest EVER in history-- but also for those who are in need other times as well. The City and County are lax in the matter of late night (and other) services. In fact there is a long and sad history of Palo Alto DENYING services -- like bathrooms -- to people after dark. So I for one am very grateful for the fact that anytime night or day that I need a place to sit down and use a computer or just rest-- Happy Donuts is there. Or was.

To the people who think it would be better if we sketchy types-- parents and workers though we may be-- have one less place to exist; rest; work-- what IS your plan? Where DO you want us to go? And don't just say "away" cause as we're learning more and more--- there is no "away."

Every piece of garbage you throw "away" has to go somewhere. We're filling up space and our land and our jails with things and people we want to throw or put "away."

And guess what? It just ain't working any more. If you don't think of something positive to do with stuff and people you don't want and you just store them (us) somewhere-- you eventually run out of room and jail cells and it gets too overwhelming.

We have to be responsible and not just label and discard people and things. It all matters. WE all matter.

It's lazy; irresponsible; and foolish-- as in it comes back to bite you worse than if you'd done the right thing in the first place-- to just turn away from and throw away people and things that are at first sight unpleasant. We do have to come back and deal with the results of earlier negligence-- you think the results of the mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan are just "gone" now and we will have no more fallout to deal with?

It's much better to do the thinking now than when you are forced to face ALL of our needs-- when the problem is so much greater and there is so much more work and expense involved.

Donuts are not healthy for people or any living thing-- but the space and place and refuge that Happy Donuts offered-- not to mention a 24/7 available bathroom!-- will be sorely missed.


Posted by KB, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 6, 2014 at 11:12 am

This is sad. Happy Donuts, the Boardwalk, the Hobees in T&C... pretty soon we won't be able to get a meal in Palo Alto for under $50.

Sounds like they lost their lease, probably because the landlord wanted to jack up the rent. I'm not sure what the landlord is going to get in there, as it's not exactly a high-rent district, and there are quite a few vacant commercial spaces along that strip of El Camino.

Could be the landlord wants to open their own restauarant/donut place. That happens a lot -- landlord sees a tenant with a successful restaurant, and thinks to themselves "That's a good business. I could do that. How hard could it be?"


Posted by PAmoderate, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2014 at 11:43 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

Greedy landlords, or that Palo Altans refuse to have more commercial development?

It's a trade-off. Let's not be like San Franciscans where they complain about high rents, but make it even harder to add more housing.

As for Chuck's impassioned post - rather than rail against others, are you willing to step up and provide these places? Maybe open up your own house? Or is it someone else's job?


Posted by perspectives, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2014 at 11:44 am

Went there at 9:30 this morning to have a last hurrah binge on Happy Donuts.... Very unfortunately they had almost NO donuts. Only a very few cake donuts, otherwise shelves were empty. And I'm certain they are completely empty by now.

The woman said they will NOT be making any more.

Too bad- they could have made a lot of money today. There were quite a lot of people coming in when I was there and everyone was disappointed and surprised to see empty shelves. Odd that the article came out they were closing and then they stop making donuts their last day of business.


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 6, 2014 at 12:02 pm

It's a party here, for only another 10 hours -- close at 10 p.m. forever, as Sue states sadly.

Mark Weiss, reporting on site, savoring a chocolate covered old fashioned and using the wi-fi.
Web Link

Maybe David Packard will take pity on us and show that old Shirley Temple movie with her making the donuts.
Dora's Dunking Donuts from 1933


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 6, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Please point me to the clause in the city charter that says CPA must provide "late night services".


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 6, 2014 at 12:52 pm

I recall the Constitution saying something about promoting the general Welfare and insuring domestic Tranquility, but you are correct, we in Palo Alto never signed up to that.


Posted by Coach JR, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 6, 2014 at 1:31 pm

My daughter graduated Stanford in 2009 and whenever we came to visit her, we'd stay at the motel across the street (Comfort Inn, I think). We are late night people and having the Happy Donuts was perfect for us for a middle-of-the-night snack. Also, their apple fritters were the absolute best. We'd cut them into quarters and take them in the car when we went traveling the Bay Area while in California. We are New Yorkers and we told our friends back east about the HD. Too bad.


Posted by Cary-Andrew Crittenden, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 6, 2014 at 4:22 pm

This is so depressing. I've loved Happy Donuts for years and I'm so sorry to see them close down.


Posted by allen , a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2014 at 7:05 pm

We went about an hour ago and had a very fresh glazed donut. Nothing on the shelf but a line of people sufficient to buy all the tray that they just brought out. They are clearly still making them. It was very good.


Posted by H, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 7, 2014 at 1:23 am

Happy Donuts, I am sad to see you go. Your cream-filled maple donuts with a cup of black coffee...nothing fancy...no bacon bits or red velvet or anything like that...just a classic donut at a good price with friendly people and great hours that brought back memories of my childhood when I used to wake up early on Saturday mornings to go get donuts with mom. Best of wishes in San Jose and I'll keep my fingers crossed about that Palo Alto location, although I have a feeling I'll be keeping them crossed for a while. Not sure what I'd call a town without a single fresh donut shop in it to call it home, but "happy" sure isn't one of them.


Posted by Gene Simpson, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 7, 2014 at 10:25 am

Our family will really miss Happy Donuts. There is not much for kids in our town to do. Happy Donuts was a place kids could meet, eat and talk to their friends. Where will kids go now?

Any 24-hour establishment has pros and cons but we residents of Barron Park could always let our children walk or bicycle there and know they were safe. It is so sad to see them leave.


Posted by More, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 7, 2014 at 11:11 am

I just passed a Happy Donuts in RWC on El Camino so it's not like they're extinct.

Rolling Pin donuts in San Bruno are excellent, if you're ever out that way: Web Link

Chuck, doesn't help to preach yet not assist the homeless. Perhaps hope someone else will help them?


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 7, 2014 at 11:19 pm

Today is a worse day in Palo Alto because there are no more donut shops. RIP Happy Donuts.


Posted by resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Seems like they are not be closing.
New sign on door says"closed for maintenance" "sorry for inconvenience" re-0pening June 12


Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

"New sign on door says"closed for maintenance" "sorry for inconvenience" re-0pening June 12 "

Impossible. Everyone knows it is going to be torn down for a 50 story office building with a 10' setback. I read it in the PA Online comments.


Posted by Founder Daughter, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 10, 2014 at 11:50 am

Happy Donuts is closed because the original owner is taking back the location. The family that has been there for the past few years is leaving because their contract is over. It has nothing to do with greedy landlords at all. It has to do with someone not fulfilling their contract and refusing to make payments. There is more to the story than it appears.


Posted by Reverend Anthony McFarland, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2014 at 5:54 pm

I HAVE NOTHING GOOD TO SAY ABOUT HAPPY DONUTS,
On 7/15/2014, I visited Happy Donuts for about 20 minutes. At first I ordered a medium cup of coffee and I used their wireless internet connection. Afterwhich I order a coffee refill and a plain old fashioned buttermilk bar. I gave the hispanic attendant a $10.00 bill for these items in advance. She in turn overrang my requested items and put an old fashioned donut and a sugar coated old fashioned buttermilk bar in a bag and refused to correct her error. Intentionally a african american shot caller for happy donuts who has in the past identified himself as a happy donuts bouncer, beggan threatening me and paising back and forth, within 4-6 inches of my person. While telling me that he was not going to let me telephone the police. I made my way away from him, and managered to use my smart phone to call 911. I did not get my buttermilk bar and the hispanic happy donuts attendant and the police failed and refused to give me my money back. The police ordered me to not return to happy donuts because they the hispanic male and female and african american male did not want me to return to happy donuts and the police officer told me if I did I would be arrested for tresspassing. The police officer white washed this incident as a civiland not criminal matter. While stateing you can take them to small claims court for your refund. He gave me a card with an incident number on it and stated he would honor my request to notify happy donuts I had requested they keep their viddeo surrvellance tapes of this incident for evidnce both for myself and possibly the district attorney. Happy Donuts appears to me to be a nightly hangout for people who need a place to sleep and psychotic veterans from armed services branches.


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