All this for the chance to buy a couple dozen doughnuts? Well, yes. It's Krispy Kreme doughnuts we're talking about here.
Not since the gas lines of the 1970s, perhaps, has a commodity been in such high demand. With the arrival of North Carolina-based Krispy Kreme in Southern California, it seems people can't get enough of the sweet stuff the company's been selling for 62 years.
The Van Nuys location, one block north of Sherman Way on Van Nuys Boulevard, opened Sept. 28 and is the second in Southern California. A La Habra location opened in January.
Both stores, complete with a drive-thru and live display of the doughnut production process, are owned and operated by Great Circle Family Foods --the exclusive developer for Krispy Kreme in Southern California. Roger and Wendy Glickman and Richard Reinis (Wendy's father) head the company, which formed in January 1998 as they began negotiations to buy franchise rights.
So, you might ask, are the doughnuts kosher? According to the Glickmans, they could very well be.
The 50-pound bags of doughnut mix and the tubs of filling are certified kosher. But a rabbi has not inspected the premises. To take that extra step, say the Glickmans, is something they're looking into. For now, they've got their hands full, with 125,000 doughnuts selling daily to 15,000 customers between their two locations.
The couple, who live in Beverlywood with their 3 1/2 year-old son Elliot and 1-year-old daughter Amanda, are somewhat overwhelmed by the public's huge response. But then they remember that Krispy Kreme mania also struck them.
The Glickmans home had been in Philadelphia. Roger was working as the director of real estate for Sony Retail Entertainment, and while on business in the South, discovered the doughnuts that would change his life.
"He fell in love with them," says Wendy. "He was obsessed with doughnuts." (His favorite is the Original Glazed.)
Then Wendy became hooked. She says she ate one Krispy Kreme doughnut per day while pregnant with her daughter. She opts for the creme-filled varieties -- "the most fattening." Meanwhile, son Elliot favors the Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles, while daughter Amanda tends to like the Traditional Cake.
The couple, who originally met when they both attended Crossroads, negotiated to buy the franchise rights and moved out to California to set up shop in June 1998. They joined Wilshire Blvd. Temple, where their son attends pre-school.
There are 15 Krispy Kreme varieties to choose from, though the yeast-raised original glazed are best known. They're light and fluffy, fried in vegetable shortening, and best of all, they're hot and fresh. During "Hot Light Hours," a neon "Hot Doughnuts Now" sign lights up in the front window to announce that fresh batches are ready. At the Van Nuys store, these hours are from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Once inside, customers can watch through a window as the stainless steel doughnut machine churns out about 250 dozen doughnuts per hour. "We've been cleaning nose prints off the glass all day!" says Roger, laughing.
He explains that the bags of doughnut mix arrive from the Krispy Kreme distributor in North Carolina, and his staff combines the mix with water and yeast to form the dough. It's then placed in a pressurized machine that forces the dough through cutters to create round doughnut shapes. Human hands never touch the dough.
Once the doughnuts are formed, they're whisked onto trays into an airtight box where the dough rises. The doughnuts then travel along a conveyor belt and float across the fryer, like little bobbing life preservers. They are flipped automatically when they reach the middle, and are never submerged in the vegetable shortening. Cooking takes just 110 seconds, 55 seconds per side.
The doughnuts' journey is not complete, though, until the conveyor belt takes them to the waterfall of white glaze that drizzles over their new golden brown skins. The glaze sets as the doughnuts reach what Roger calls the "retail curve" - an actual curve in the conveyor belt where the staff stands waiting to box the doughnuts up for customers. You can't get any hotter or fresher than this.
The Original Glazed becomes the base for the Chocolate Iced and Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles varieties. Several women in one corner of the store smooth the icing on with thick spatulas, while others work on the fillings, which include blueberry, raspberry, lemon and cinnamon apple. There's something for everyone, and that's likely why the crowds keep coming.
The Glickmans say they plan to open 42 Krispy Kreme locations in Southern California. Two more are scheduled to open in November -- one in the Block at Orange in Orange County, and one in Ontario Mills in the Inland Empire.
"We're a car culture here," says Wendy. "All of our Krispy Kremes will have to be drive-thrus. It's a matter of finding the right location."
And for the holidays, add the Glickmans, they may decide to offer doughnuts with holiday color-themed sprinkles. Can we expect "Hanukkah" doughnuts with a blue-and-white motif? Well, the Glickmans laugh, we'll have to wait and see.
Krispy Kreme is located at 7249 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys. (818) 908-9113.
Eclectic Chanukah & Inept Bachelors
The grocery aisles are starting to fill with Thankgiving items, which can only mean one thing: Chanukah can't be far behind. This year, the holiday's first night falls on Dec. 3, which gives you more than enough time to add a few new or improved dishes to your eight-day repetoire. Rob Eshman, Managing Editor of the Jewish Journal, cookbook author and former chef and caterer, will teach, "An Eclectic Chanukah Menu" at The Seasonal Table Cooking School on Thurs., Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in West Los Angeles. His menu includes Traditional Crunchy Latkes, Braised Sonoma Lamb with Pomegranate Glaze, Israeli Couscous with Winter Vegetables and Homemade Harissa; Coffee Meringue with Espresso Zabaglione and Deep Chocolate Sauce.
Eshman will also teach "Bachelors in the Kitchen," a fast-paced, participatory primer for bachelors (and single women) on how to do away with takeout and create fast, easy dishes on your own. That class will take place Thurs., Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m. The 2 1/2 hour classes are $55 each. Call (310) 454-4220 to register. -- Staff Report