A tiny doughnut shop that has been a Santee staple for more than 30 years has opened another location right down the street that brings with it relics, classic treats and, hopefully, lots of old and new patrons.
Mary’s Donuts, a cozy nook next to a gas station located at 9031 Mission Gorge Rd., remains open but the East County favorite now has a new location as well, in the shopping center anchored by a GTM store at 8959 Carlton Hills Blvd.
The shops are less than a half-mile away from one another. For now, they’re both open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, churning out fresh, sugary treats to dozens upon dozens of customers.
That includes Richard Burk, who’s been visiting the Mission Gorge location regularly for the past six years for Mary’s famous apple fritters. He eats his doughnut, sips on his coffee and reads the morning paper, often sitting at a communal table and sharing conversations with other customers and staffers.
“The doughnuts – I mean, look at the size,” he said, smiling at his apple fritter. “The doughnuts are good and the people are nice.”
Burk told NBC 7 he plans to frequent the new Mary’s shop as well.
“It’s a nice store. It’s more spacious,” Burk said. “They can serve more people. Things change; things grow. They’re working really hard to make another store.”
Mary’s manager John Lesh, who’s worked at the shop for nearly four years, said that while new Mary’s feels modern, the space still boasts relics of years past. This includes vintage photos on the walls depicting San Diego and the original Mary’s shop, which opened in 1984.
Also lining the bright teal walls are photographs of customers, which were moved from the original location into the new space. At Mary’s, the walls have always been covered in pictures of customers of all ages, giving the shop its signature, lived-in look and fostering the small business’ connection to the community.
“We had to try to make this feel like Mary’s,” Lesh explained.
A couple of walls at the new shop are covered in photos, while other walls remain bare.
“What we want to do is not completely fill the wall. We have 30-plus years of pictures – and we have enough room here to make 30 more years of pictures,” said Lesh. “All you have to do is ask, and we’ll put you up on the wall. Anyone from San Diego is family.”
Lesh said business has grown steadily over the years for Mary’s and this new location helps support that growth. The new Mary’s held its soft opening this week.
Lesh said some customers are still having a hard time finding the new shop since, rather than being a stand-alone building, it’s tucked away inside the shopping center on Carlton Hills Boulevard. He hopes the next few weeks will give patrons time to familiarize themselves with the new location and bring new customers in, too.
San Carlos resident Vanessa Price visited the new Mary’s Friday with her two kids, Isabelle and Benjamin. The mother said it was her first time ever going to the doughnut shop. She popped in after running some errands nearby.
“I was doing some shopping here and thought I’d come in and check it out. We’re getting several treats today,” Price said.
Benjamin’s face lit up as he perused the display case. Price settled on some sprinkles-topped doughnuts for the kids, a red velvet one for herself and, of course, an apple fritter for her husband.
As Mary’s launches its new location, Lesh said the doughnut selection will remain the same.
Loyal customers will still be able to get their apple fritters, doughnut holes and bagels there.
He said the shop’s longtime staff will also stay intact. One chief baker has been with Mary’s for more than 20 years, Lesh said, and will remain at the helm. The business has also hired some new faces to help staff both locations.
Mary’s will give customers updates on any developments concerning the shops on its Facebook page.
For the time being, Lesh said the new Mary's and old Mary's will both remain open. He could not elaborate on the ultimate fate of the original location, as they are still working out business dealings with the person who leases out the original site.