courtesy of Cabray Scott Photography
Fifty years ago, "There was the bar, the donut shop, and not much else on the far end of Santee.”
Terry Thompson remembers going to the dump with his father and brothers in the early 1970s. He fondly recalls what they did afterward.
“The dump and donuts — it doesn't get much better than that as a kid,” said Thompson on April 27. “It was crazy when you looked at that place, Zona’s [Donuts] was in the middle of nowhere. My uncle and aunt opened up a bar, Kelley’s Bar, down the street in the 1950s/1960s. My uncle said he sat out front one day and counted six cars drive by in one day. It was just a different time: there was the bar, the donut shop, and not much else on the far end of Santee.”
Thompson continued to visit when Zona’s Donuts turned into Mary’s Donuts in 1984. He made sure he was at Mary’s on April 24.
“I dropped by the old place around 9:00 a.m. with my brother Tad and they were busy with a line going out the door. Though they were always busy.”
On April 25, for the first time in more than 50 years, no donuts were being sold at 9031 Mission Gorge Road.
On April 28, I spoke with Mary Hennessy’s right-hand man, Joel Scalzitti. When asked how his last day went at the old location, he said, “There were so many donuts left at 7:00 a.m. and when I came back to lock up at 9:00 a.m., there was a flood of people going out the door. By the time we closed, we only had a couple of donuts left.”
Scalzitti filled me in on the reason for the move.
“The guy that owns the gas station next door just came up to us one day and said he was the owner now. Zona [of Zona’s Donuts] left the place to her sister when she died in 2008. I don’t know how this guy got her to sell. It sold when we had about three years left on our lease. He wasn’t willing to give us any kind of a new lease. We tried to negotiate another year but he almost doubled or tripled our rent.”
Scalzitti said that the landlord had big plans to open up the shop and sell donuts the day after Mary’s moved out. “He even purchased a fictitious business license for ‘Maryz’. He thought the fryers, customer photos, and everything else inside was his property,” said Scalzitti.
“So many people show their kids photos of themselves when they were kids at Mary’s."
Mary’s has thousands of customer photos on the walls. Scalzitti said, “So many people show their kids photos of themselves when they were kids at Mary’s. There are photos of my own kids as Girl Scouts.”
The new Mary's Donuts that opened in February
Mary’s opened their new location minutes away at 8959 Carlton Hills Boulevard in late February to help with the transition. The donut shop is still going to be open 24/7 at the new location.
Scalzitti says Mary is still at the shop at 4:00 a.m. every morning and even after about 50 years in the donut game, she’s still very hands-on. Originally from Minnesota, Mary paid her dues working for Winchell’s Donuts for about 20 years. Scalzitti said that everything sells well, but Mary’s apple fritters have been their signature treat for decades. The cream puffs are also to die for, said both Scalzitti and Thompson.
Scalzitti has fond memories of both Zona’s and Mary’s. His father used to take him to Zona’s before heading to the swap meet. “I then brought my kids to Mary’s and now my kids bring their kids into Mary’s,” he said.
Any chance of more locations?
“I would like to have my own Mary’s someday, ”Scalzitti said. “All of Mary’s kids and grandkids have worked in the donut shop over the years but not one has wanted to stay in the business. Though, Mary just got a call yesterday that her youngest grandchild wants to learn the business. This is the last one.”
I called the new landlord for comment but did not receive a call back.