Dianne Pao watched fretfully as doughnut shops closed down all around San Diego: the nearby Krispy Kreme, the Yum Yum Donuts down the street, and family-owned shops in Hillcrest, Coronado and Santee.
To avoid a similar fate, she and her husband last year expanded their small Point Loma doughnut shop into a full service Cambodian restaurant, one of the few in the city. Khmer-style Tum Yum soup and curries sustain their business now, but the couple still arrives each day at 4 a.m. to make more than 150 glazed twists, maple bars and jelly doughnuts they put on display in a glass case at the edge of the dining room, hoping they’ll catch the eye of a passerby who might then stay for lunch.
“He makes a good doughnut,” Pao said of her husband, Nimol Sam, who taught her the labor-intensive trade five years ago as they prepared to open their shop. “That is why we are still here.”
But the local doughnut industry, once a Cambodian family’s assured pipeline into American society, is changing, forced to respond to consumer preference, tough economic times and the trickling away of the younger generation of Cambodians to more professional career paths.