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.