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Q: Why does Randy’s Donuts say, “World Famous Since ‘62”? My dad said it was there in the 50s.
A: An astounding 13,000 crullers, cakes, and crumbs pass through the windows of the Inglewood landmark daily, along with a line of T-shirts, bumper stickers, hoodies, even novelty socks…all with the slogan “World Famous Since 1962.” Somebody misheard the number like in a game of telephone and the date was printed a full decade off. Owner Mark Kelegian says that after our “exhaustive in-depth investigation” the next batch of boxes will rewind the founding date back to 1952 and that he’s preparing for the store’s 70th anniversary celebration next year.
“I appreciate the need for accuracy,” he says. “We certainly did not try to mislead anyone.” Kelegian, a Newport Beach attorney, purchased the iconic doughnut stand in 2015, gave it a refresh, and quickly opened five more stores in Southern California, all with some form of big donut on display. Stores in Downey and Costa Mesa have signs almost as big as the original, the rest are more discreet.
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“It’s all going very fast. Internationally, we have 69 stores in development. We’re opening our fourth store in Korea this month, and soon we’ll be in Jeddah, France, and Morocco. We’re working with large players in China. We haven’t struck a deal yet but they’re particularly fond of sweets.”
Kelegian purchased the 32-foot glazed (and the shop underneath) from brothers Larry and Ron Weintraub, who acquired it from their cousin Randy Eskow in 1978. Two years earlier Randy’s dad Robert had purchased it from original owner Russell Wendell, founder of the Big Donut Drive-In chain who later moved into fast food when he created Pup ‘n Taco, a drive-thru that combined hot dogs and tacos. Wendell sold those stores to Taco Bell for $50 million in 1984.
Five of the original ten Big Donut Drive-In locations still stand (in Westmont, Gardena, Compton, and Bellflower) but only the Inglewood location was ever named Randy’s. “My sister didn’t want her name on it,” Eskow’s son Randy told me. “So dad said, ‘Randy, we’ll put your name on it.’ I have a picture of me inside the donut. The bell bottoms tell you just what year it was.”
“When I first came to this country in 1978 I saw this huge donut near the airport,” Randy’s wife Debbie told me recently. “I said, ‘Only in America.’ Years later when I met Randy he told me and I didn’t believe him. I never knew I’d marry the donut boy.”
The couple live in Santa Clarita where they run the animal rescue Save a Kitty. “Tell your readers,” Debbie laughed. “That the real Randy is now a crazy cat guy.”