If you’ve ever flown into LAX or driven down Interstate 405 in Southern California, chances are you’ve seen Randy’s Donuts. The iconic donut shop is hard to miss, and—looking at their walk-up window that nearly always has a line—it’s even harder to mistake what they sell. The small shop is topped with a very large donut emblazoned with the words “Randy’s Donuts,” and it’s been a Los Angeles staple for nearly 60 years.
Although you could argue that every day at Randy’s is National Donut Day, June 7th is the official day devoted to donuts nationwide. Tomorrow, from 6 a.m. until noon at all four Randy’s locations, visitors will receive four free glazed donut rounds.
Additionally, anyone who posts a favorite Randy’s photo and tags both #RandysDonutsLA and #NationalDonutDay on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook will be entered to win a dozen classic donuts per week for an entire year. Ten runners-up will receive donut parties valued at $100, and 50 third-place contestants will receive a dozen donuts.
Big donut country
Randy’s Donuts was built in 1953 by Russell C. Wendell, a donut machine salesman, as part of his Big Donut drive-in chain. The Inglewood location was the second of ten original Big Donut shops. In 1976, it was purchased and renamed “Randy’s Donuts and Sandwiches” after the new owner’s son.
Southern California is a mecca for fans of programmatic, or novelty, architecture—buildings that are shaped like, or hint at, what they sell. These hyper-specific buildings are not always easy to repurpose, however, and are often demolished. Only four other Big Donuts survive today, located in Westmont, Gardena, Compton, and Bellflower. The Bellflower donut was cleverly converted into a bagel, a welcome alternative to the wrecking ball.
The huge donut itself is constructed with rolled steel bars and covered in gunite, a type of sprayed concrete used in swimming pools. The 32-foot-in-diameter donut positively dwarfs the small shop, and is visible to people speeding down (or more likely, parked on) the nearby freeway and to passengers on planes landing at LAX.
The power of suggestion is in full effect with shops that employ this building-as-sign technique, and it’s nearly impossible to pass Randy’s without at least considering stopping for a donut. They have the classics: glazed, chocolate, crullers, jelly filled, and apple fritters—but they’ve also added some fancier flavors to keep up with the Instagramming Joneses, offering cinnamon roll, Nutella, red velvet, and s’mores donuts.
Donut culture in LA is a serious business and although there seems to be a donut shop on nearly every corner, it’s hard to compete with the location and visibility of Randy’s.
The Donut Hole, located in La Puenta, is the last surviving of five drive-through donut shops constructed of two enormous fiberglass donuts that serve as bookends for the small bakery. Angel Food Donut shops are topped with a smaller, but still oversized, donut.
In 2014, Dunkin’ Donuts purchased The Original Grind coffee shop in Long Beach and planned to demolish the building and its large, pink donut sign. Preservationists protested, and Dunkin’ not only kept the donut, but gave the sign a six-figure makeover.
In a press release, however, Randy’s claims to be the “world’s most recognized donut shop” and I, for one, struggle to think of one that has appeared in more movies or Instagram posts. The immediately recognizable donut has appeared on TV (Arrested Development, Entourage, and The Bernie Mac Show), in movies (Get Shorty, Iron Man 2, and Dope), and music videos for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Justin Timberlake, and Randy Newman.
Randy’s currently has three locations in addition to its Inglewood shop, and you can also score the free donut rounds at their Century City, El Segundo, and Hollywood shops.
“We want to celebrate National Donut Day by giving back to our customers who’ve visited us repeatedly over decades and helped make us a pop-culture icon,” Mark Kelegian, president of Randy’s Donuts, says in the press release. “Our beloved fans all stop to snap photos outside our landmark shops, and now they’ll be rewarded by sharing the love and posting them with both #RandysDonutsLA and #NationalDonutDay before National Donut Day.”
If you go
Randy’s Inglewood location is located at 805 West Manchester Boulevard and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. On June 7, 2019, from 6 a.m. to noon, the shop will be giving away four free glazed donut rounds to each customer.