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Donut Parade owners vow to keep the doors open

For a while, anyway, it appeared another Spokane icon had gone the way of Nat Park, The Crescent department store, the Old National Bank and honest city government.

But the Donut Parade – that North Side outpost of fresh, doughy delight?

Aw, say it ain’t so.

Yet the signs weren’t good. For most of last week, Donut Parade devotees would show up at 2152 N. Hamilton St. only to encounter a dark shop and locked doors.

“Now I see that Google lists them as ‘Permanently Closed,’ ” a worried fan noted in an email to me.

Then, last Friday morning (National Doughnut Day, by the way), everything appeared better than normal.

Tables were filled with people enjoying their coffee and doughnuts and those world-famous maple bars. A line of carb junkies stretched from the display counters out the front door and down the sidewalk.

“It was crazy,” said Christian Reno, who runs the Donut Parade with her husband, Roy. “There was a line out the door for a solid five hours.”

The stampede, she added, lasted 10 minutes past the shop’s 1 p.m. closing time. “We technically did not sell out, but we sold out of what people wanted.”

I occupied a booth for a half-hour or so that Friday morning with my daughter, Emily, and granddaughter, baby Ronan, who kept smashing my cake doughnut with a spoon.

I watched the feeding frenzy knowing the backstory about just how close the Renos had come to packing it in.

See, all the nostalgia and sentiment that Spokane claims to have for this throwback place is terrific.

Count me in with those who adore the Donut Parade’s faded signage, metal stools, battle-scarred Formica counters …

The Donut Parade is a rare time warp. Too bad economic pressures haven’t been as resistant to change as the funky decor.

The truth, Roy said, is that business has fallen off about $400 a day for the past six months. And one annual doughnut day panic isn’t about to set things right.

Blame the higher costs of cranking out those warm, fluffy maple bars and donuts. Blame the lower numbers of doughnut aficionados.

It’s the law of diminishing returns, actually. Roy explained that his family has had to deplete its savings in order to stay open.

“My raised-dough mix has gone up 10 bucks a bag,” Roy added. “I’ve gotta rob Peter to pay Paul to keep things going.”

So the family took an unplanned seven-day timeout to seriously think about their future.

“It was decision time,” said Christian, who, after 25 years of working (“more on than off”) at Donut Parade, considered looking for another job.

Finally, a plan was hatched: The Renos would dig in and fight with an added ingredient to the mix.

“God’s gotta drag me out of there,” vowed Roy.

On Wednesday, however, prices must rise accordingly to reflect the economic realities of operating a doughnut shop in 2016.

I encourage everyone who cares about this civic treasure to cheerfully ante up.

Not everyone will, I know. I talked to a grump or two after Ronan fed me my cake doughnut with sprinkles.

There are customers who love sitting for hours, drinking endless free refills of coffee. They delude themselves into believing that the Donut Parade should be just the way it was back when Darrell Jones started the business in 1968.

Over the years that followed, the Donut Parade became an institution beloved by the high and the lowly. House Speaker Tom Foley could be seen there. Same with Gonzaga University and NBA great John Stockton. City workers. Veterans. At its height the Donut Parade boasted some 200 regulars a day.

Finally worn out, Jones sold the business to the Renos in 2008. A generous and kind-hearted man, he died last year at the age of 87.

His hard work and ridiculously low prices set the path to be followed. The Renos begin their workdays often at 3:30 a.m., hefting flour sacks and making great doughnuts and other menu items.

“It was easier for me to get up every morning and go do concrete work,” Roy said with a laugh.

I hope the Renos make it. Although the older I get, the more I realize that nothing lasts forever.

For the time being I’m going to try my darnedest to support the Donut Parade before it becomes one of those iconic memories from Spokane’s past.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.


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