How does a love affair usually start? Sometimes it begins with a glance or a look over a glass counter at a shop. Before you know it, a desire courses through your veins causing you to think or dream about it all the time. All reason goes out the window and you must have them. That’s how it started with me and LaMar’s-donuts that is.
It seemed so long ago, twenty years I believe, on Linwood Blvd., while driving down the street heading to work that an unusual sight caught my attention. A line of people, from every walk of life, had formed from inside the door of a converted gas station to the outside and round the building. Cars were parked everywhere as more people dodged oncoming traffic so they could join the others in the line.
I had to know what type of aphrodisiac existed in that white building that made a reasonable person stand in the biting winter winds. I found a spot, parked my car and stood with the others that had to have “it.” When I finally made my way through the glass door, the sweet smell of yeast dough, cinnamon and sugar hit my nostrils. My eyes stared at the larger than life cinnamon twists, cake donuts, long johns and various delights.
I didn’t know what to say when the clerk asked, “What can I get for you?” My mouth wouldn’t move, not a sound did I utter, instead I pointed to the cinnamon twist and a chocolate long john. I don’t remember how I made it outside with the goods in my hands. The crisp breeze slapped me back into reality as I opened the car door and slid inside. After starting the ignition, I couldn’t move until I tried the twist. It was at that moment that I knew a love affair had begun.
The Birth of a Craze
In 1933, a then seventeen year old Ray Lamar started his career at the Jack Frost Donut Company. During that time, a dozen donuts cost eighteen cents and the shop was open from eleven a.m. until midnight. In 1940, Ray ventured to try new flavors besides the plain or dusted powdered cake donuts that were now offered. The choices included devils food and apple spice. Even the yeast donuts had a chocolate iced version.
The first LaMar’s Donuts opened in 1960 at Linwood Blvd. in the converted gas station mentioned earlier. From six in the morning until late afternoon, more than 11,000 donuts sold. Due to increasing sales and popular demand, Ray Lamar and his wife Shannon, decided to franchise the business in 1990. Now twenty-seven locations in six states: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, could enjoy the LaMar’s craze.
The Man behind the Name
Ray Lamar worked for the Jack Frost Donut Company in LaSalle Theater at 34th and Broadway. He believed in his trade and demonstrated it through learning and progression through the ranks of management. This type of dedication earned him a position as partner in the company.
With the onset of World War II, Ray put his career on hold to fight for his country. Upon his return to civilian life he obtained a post war college degree in economics and an idea to work as a stockbroker. But a burning desire to return to the business he so loved won out and he returned to the art of making the best donut that he could.
Standing with Honors
I’m not alone in bragging about the product and flavor of LaMar’s Donuts. Countless magazines and newspapers feel the same way. LaMar’s has been featured in The New Yorker, Home and Gardens, Town and Country and Zagat to name a few. In a taste test conducted by the Rocky Mountain News of Denver, Colorado, LaMar’s Donuts held its own against top contenders like, Krispy Kreme, Winchell’s, Dunkin Donuts and eight of the mile high cities own. Need I say who won the contest?
When you have a product that can boast of no artificial flavors or stabilizers and made from scratch every day, you can stand with pride knowing you have produced the best for your customer.
The Love Affair Continues
After a three-year separation, LaMar’s Donuts and I are back together again. All it took was to pull into the parking lot of our local shop and walk through its doors. I understood then what had been missing from my life. This time I could say, “Cinnamon twist please.” I held what I longed for in my hands while staring lovingly at it. But it wasn’t until that first bite and the light flakes of glaze that fell upon my shirt, that I knew, we would never part again.
(Many thanks to Carolyn Tai and the Crew at Lamar’s- Brad, Alicia, Jessica and Amanda for making this story possible.)