Meet the Hanford Couple Bringing Gourmet Treats to the South Valley.
By Dave Fountinelle | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tucked away in a strip mall near the corner of 10th and Fargo in Hanford is a humble little shop taking the beloved donut to the next level. Since opening in December 2019, Donut Cafe quickly became one of Hanford’s best-kept secrets. Their creations are the stuff of Instagram-dreams. Chocolate glazed donuts topped with chunks of brownies and chocolate chip cookies, drizzled over with chocolate sauce, s’ mores donuts topped with graham crackers and toasted marshmallows, purple-glazed cotton candy-flavored donuts with pink sprinkles, are but just a few of what the café offers. These aren’t your typical, pink-box-in-the-breakroom donuts.
For owners, Cham and Michelle Mak, breaking the mold and thinking outside the (pink) box is their mission statement.
“We came up with the idea of opening a gourmet donut shop back in 2015,” Michelle says. “I would see these amazing, beautiful donuts on Instagram, and I told Cham, ‘We can do that!’ and he said ‘ok, but if we’re going to do it, then we’re going to do it right.”
Cham had the experience of working at his brother’s donut shop for about ten years. It was the job he held since he immigrated to America from Cambodia at 14 years old. While other kids only worried about homework and making time to hang out with their friends, Cham was holding down two jobs. A typical day for him began at 3 am, making donuts with his brother. Then class all day at Lemoore High School. Then a second job after school at the Mobil gas station. Finally, he would come home, finish his homework, go to bed, and do it again the next day.
“I’ve known Cham for over ten years, and he’s never taken a day off,” Michelle says.
When Michelle first suggested opening their donut shop with a gourmet twist, Cham wanted to improve on the knowledge and experience he had gained at his brother’s shop. His goal was to create a donut that was truly worthy of the “gourmet” label.
“I had been working on my own recipe for a few years,” Cham explains. “Most donut shops use a pre-packaged dry mix that already has everything in it, and you just add water and mix. But I make everything from scratch, with fresh milk and eggs and all-natural ingredients. That’s the only way I want to do it.”
Besides using only fresh ingredients, Cham also developed secret methods for preparing a dough that produces a donut with fewer air holes than the typical pre-mix kind. The result is a donut that’s spongy, fluffy, and melts in your mouth. And the flavor is absolute decadence. The quality is most evident in their standard glazed donut – the simple flavor lays bare all the dedication and care in their craft. Cham takes pride in his work, and it shows.
Donut Cafe is truly a labor of love for the couple. They spent years saving money and meticulously planning every aspect of their business. The start-up process even included patience in waiting for the owner of their location to agree to sell. All that work paid off when they opened for business in early December 2019. Word of mouth spread quickly, and their customer base grew steadily. Then the COVID-19 pandemic brought the economy to a grinding halt.
“It has definitely been tough,” Michelle says. “As you can see, looking around here, we are still in the process of remodeling the store the way we want it. But that’s on hold because everything we make right now is just going towards keeping the doors open month-to-month until things hopefully return to normal soon.”
Some spikes in business for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day have helped keep the bills paid. Still, the shutdowns have been devastating even for well-established businesses. Statistically, even under ideal circumstances, most small businesses fail in their first year. To start a new business while also being hammered by a catastrophic economic and public health crisis creates an almost insurmountable challenge.
“Yes, it is definitely a scary time right now.” Michelle says, “But honestly if there’s anyone who can make it through all of this, it’s Cham. Nobody works harder than he does. I feel like there’s nothing we can’t handle.”
Indeed, Michelle’s optimism is both infectious and inspiring, and her positive energy fills the room. Theirs is truly an inspirational story. Cham came to America in his teens. Michelle, who’s family immigrated from Brazil. Planning, working and saving to turn their dream of owning their own business into a reality before their 30th birthdays. And, not for nothing, but they’ve created something truly noteworthy.
“I know people always say ‘made with love’ but our donuts really are made with love,” Michelle beams. “We love what we do. We just want to share that love with everybody.”
Despite the uncertainty that the pandemic has created, Cham and Michelle continue to look ahead and plan for the future. The remodeling project that has been on hold previously resumes in a week. And when the shutdowns finally disappear for good, their plan is for Donut Cafe to be a social place. A place where friends can meet for breakfast, regulars can hang out on their laptops, and people can come in, get a donut, a coffee or boba tea, and chill out.
“And, of course, we’re going to keep coming up with unique and creative donut ideas,” Michelle adds. “Our goal is always to push ourselves to create something beautiful, delicious, and of course, Instagram worthy!”
Donut Cafe is located at 2455 N 10th Ave, in Hanford. You can follow them on Facebook and Instagram @donutcafehanford to see samples of their mouth-watering creations. They are open for carryout orders, and you can also call ahead at (559) 670-0057 for curbside pickup.