San Diego

East County's Beloved Mary's Donuts Opens Shop and Deli in El Cajon

There's a new doughnut shop and deli in downtown El Cajon

A small, family-owned doughnut shop in San Diego’s East County just got a little bit bigger: Mary’s Donuts, a staple for the past 35 years, has opened a new location in El Cajon churning out both sweets and sandwiches.

The spinoff is called Main Street Donuts & Deli, and is located at 172 East Main St., near the downtown El Cajon courthouse and the Magnolia Performing Arts Center (formerly the East County Performing Arts Center), set to reopen this fall.

Joel Scalzitti, owner of Mary’s Donuts in Lakeside, told NBC 7 the doughnut-deli hybrid will host its grand opening this Saturday. On the menu, Scalzitti said patrons will find brand-new sandwiches and classic doughnuts built using family recipes perfected by the brand's namesake, Mary Hennesy, over the past four decades. Scalzitti's family has known Hennesy for more than 35 years and, to him, she is family.

The classics include Mary’s huge apple fritters, custard and raspberry-filled cream puffs, and raised doughnuts and cake doughnuts, to name a few. Fans will also find a maple bacon creation and those tasty crumb doughnuts East County has come to know and love.

Scalzitti said the deli side of the shop will offer sandwiches with names inspired by the nearby courthouse, such as The Judge, The Misdemeanor and Failed to Appear. Some of the sandwiches are stacked on Mary’s flakey, famous croissants, which are also baked fresh daily.

This isn’t the brand’s first time delving into the world of sandwiches.

A few years ago, Mary’s Donuts opened a tiny shop in downtown Lakeside – at 10101 Maine Ave. Scalzitti took the reins on that business venture, branding that location as both a deli and a doughnut shop.

The Lakeside shop, he said, was the inspiration for the expansion into El Cajon. Scalzitti said he had been looking to expand upon the deli concept and had been eyeballing possible locations around the county.

When he saw the site in El Cajon, he knew it was the right fit.

“We look for buildings with character,” Scalzitti told NBC 7. “And this spot in El Cajon looks right. We hope to bring a spark to downtown El Cajon.”

Scalzitti said the inside of Main Street Donuts & Deli will also have some character. He plans to fill the shop with retro décor and classic car memorabilia as a nod to the community’s weekly Cajon Classic Cruise Car Shows. 

Following the example of strong work ethic set forth by Hennesy, Scalzitti said he will pour his heart into this project.

Scalzitti said Hennesy has been a doughnut-maker all her life and, even today, comes into Mary’s Donuts at 4 a.m. to personally conduct quality control. She likes to make sure her recipes are being followed.

Scalzitti follows suit, also arriving at the shop bright and early.

“This is my passion. These 4 a.m. wake-up calls – I’m there because I want to be there,” he said.

El Cajon City Manager Graham Mitchell said the community – which is experiencing a development boom – is thrilled to welcome this division of Donuts & Deli to its downtown landscape.

"I am excited about the transformation taking place downtown,” Mitchell told NBC 7. “The doughnut shop and deli is just one example of the many new businesses taking root just steps away from the Magnolia Performing Arts Center which is on schedule to reopen this fall."

By the way, if you ever want to visit Mary’s flagship Santee shop, you can find it at 8959 Carlton Hills Blvd., inside a shopping centered anchored by a GTM Discount General Store. The doughnut shop moved to that location back in March 2016 after operating out of a tiny, free-standing building on Mission Gorge Road for more than 33 years. Although that move, at that time, was a big deal for Mary’s Donuts, patrons followed the store to its new location just a few blocks away.

Scalzitti said the brand’s fan base is loyal.

And, for those golden, piping-hot apple fritters and decadent doughnuts, he hopes fans will follow them anywhere.

Editor's Note: The opening of Main Street Donuts & Deli does not in any way impact the Mary's Donuts location in Santee, which remains open under its original name and concept, focused on doughnuts. The El Cajon division of this business is a branch off of the Lakeside Mary's; both of those newer locations are helmed by Scalzitti, while the Santee shop continues to be headed by Hennesy and her granddaughter, Kelly Hennesy.

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