By Tim Gruver
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
For nearly 30 years, Seattle’s King Donuts restaurant has been feeding the community of Rainier Beach from its historic space on 9232 Rainier Avenue South.
Painted mint green with pink trim, its bright colors are a stark contrast to the typically cloudy Seattle sky overhead.
From the pastries of its namesake, to teriyaki chicken, or shrimp fried rice, King Donuts’ menu has evolved with the diverse community it serves.
When King Donuts first opened, it was a doughnut shop only. After a move in 2003, it added a teriyaki component, as well as a laundromat to help cover the higher rent and make up for the loss of similar area businesses.
On Dec. 20, 2016, King Donuts saw its final day of service under its previous owners, Chea Pol and Heng Hay, who retired after nearly 30 years of business.
Originally from Cambodia, Pol and Hay immigrated to the United States in 1981 to escape the Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot.
King Donuts has since been taken over by the Chhuor family, who also come from Cambodia.
The restaurant is managed in part by Hong Chhuor, who handles finances and public relations. His brother, Travis, and his mother run the counter, kitchen, and other services.
Chhuor, who is also the marketing and communications manager at Asian Counseling and Referral Service, sees King Donuts as an invaluable means of bringing communities together.
“Like many children of family business owners, I didn’t necessarily want to enter the family business,” Chhuor said. “But I’m really interested about how people interact over food and drinks, and I see how it’s an important part of the community. ”
On Jan. 27, King Donuts reopened its doors to dozens of customers, young and old, with free donut samples, balloons, a raffle, and music.
Chhuor said that his family “wanted the place to look friendly and inviting” and hoped to achieve that with the building’s new mint green finish overlapping the restaurant’s previously all-pink color.
King Donuts is the third restaurant run by the Chhuor family. Previously, they operated restaurants in Los Angeles and eastern Texas.
The Chhuors took over King Donuts with money raised entirely from extended family members, Chhuor said, as part of a truly family enterprise.
“I guess that’s what makes Asian family-owned businesses unique,” Chhuor said. “We value family relationships that you don’t see in other cultures.”
Other than its new paint job, King Donuts is very much the same restaurant the Hays left behind.
Towards the back of the building, customers can still find the restaurant’s storied laundromat, which includes two dozen coin-operated washing machines.
For many low-income families with no washing machines of their own, Chhuor said a community laundromat can be the only place to get a clean set of clothes.
The Chhuors have big plans ahead for King Donuts this year, including adding Thai food to the place’s eclectic menu.
Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.