Donut King will close March 20
By 8:15 on Thursday morning, the crowd at Lou King’s doughnut shop at 220 Grand Ave. in West Des Moines has thinned out. A regular group of coffee-drinking card players at the end of the counter is deep into a game of Blitz.
King is in the back frying and frosting the dozens of varieties of doughnuts he makes Tuesdays through Sundays. He starts the process at midnight so he's ready for the morning rush.
Come March 20, the Donut King owner will serve his last fried dough treat.
The building he occupies, along with the Burger King to the east, will be torn down to make way for new development.
“I am not real thrilled with it, but when I heard someone bought the land I figured something like this would be in the wind,” King, 69, said.
Hurd Real Estate purchased the properties in July 2013 with the intent of redeveloping the area when tenants’ leases expired in at least another year. Burger King decided to terminate its lease sooner, owner Richard Hurd said.
“I was a little surprised,” he said.
King leases his building from Burger King, so when the fast food restaurant decided to close, Donut King had to close too, Hurd said.
“We have to tear down the buildings because they are old and out of compliance with city codes,” he said.
Hurd owns a third building to the west that houses an Abelardo’s restaurant. It will continue operating until its lease expires in another year, when it will be torn down.
The West Des Moines-based developer plans to construct two buildings on the three parcels. This summer work will start on the Burger King and Donut King lots. New businesses there could include a fast food restaurant or coffee shop, Hurd said.
King is looking for another spot nearby where he can reopen his doughnut shop.
He wants something about the same size as the current location, with ample parking. He is considering building a new store, but he worries the cost might be prohibitive.
That’s where his loyal customers have stepped in. Rick Markley has started a GoFundMe page to raise $100,000 for a new location. As of 5 p.m. Thursday, 56 people have donated $1,800 in contributions ranging from $5 to $100.
“Sometimes good things happen,” Markley said Thursday morning. He's stopped into the shop for a cup of coffee and a doughnut every morning for the last 15 years.
“The doughnuts are so good,” Markley said.
King started working at Donut King, then called Mister Donut, as a high schooler in 1964.
“I have been here a long time,” he said.
After two years in the Army, he returned to his job in 1971 and bought the business two years later. He's seen ups and downs, but has maintained a devoted customer base.
King recovered from a hip injury last year that forced him to close the shop for several weeks. Business has been strong since he reopened at the end of last October.
His last day of business is March 20, which gives him 10 days to decide whether he'll sell or store the equipment inside the shop.