When it comes to satisfying America’s sweet tooth, trends like Cronuts, deep-fried Twinkies and Astronaut Ice Cream come and go.
But Burbank’s Donut Prince has built a kingdom on staying the same.
Nearly every morning for the past 39 years, Mahmoud “Mike” Abdelghani has gotten up hours before dawn to begin mixing dough and batter for a variety of sugary treats crafted according to time-tested personal recipes.
A native of Egypt who came to the area in 1971 and learned doughnut-making as a night job while attending Glendale Community College, Abdelghani, now 61, founded Donut Prince at 407 Irving Drive on Aug. 15, 1974.
Abdelghani remodeled the tiny pastry and coffee stand once, in 1985, and he and his wife installed the tile floor of its small covered dining patio themselves, he said.
He has closed his business, open seven days a week, only one day since it opened, due to illness.
He has, at times, gone years without taking a day off.
“When you have good business going, you cannot close because you want to take a day off. This is a big, huge no,” said Abdelghani, who these days occasionally relies on part-time help. “It’s part of serving the community. It’s being loyal to those who are loyal to me.”
A typical workday at Donut Prince begins at about 1:30 a.m., with coffee brewing for night owls and third-shifters soon after.
In the kitchen, Abdelghani said he starts with baking muffins, ready by 3 a.m., then moves to croissants, bagels, and finally four different doughnut dough or batter recipes — buttermilk, cake, chocolate cake and finally, the all-important raised-flour mix.
Raised flour goes into everything from glazed and jelly doughnuts to lemon and maple bars, cinnamon rolls and twists to bear claws and his specialty apple fritters and pecan rolls.
Abdelghani, who also operated the Donut Prince on Olive Avenue for 15 years before selling it in 1996, said the fritters and pecan rolls are the secret to his success — but he’ll put anything he makes fresh daily up against the offerings at the nearby Krispy Kreme or the Starbucks around the corner.
Regulars say it’s also interacting with Abdelghani that keeps them coming back.
“He’s genuinely interested in people and quick to remember you and your name,” said Shaun Cashman, a director of animated television shows who stops in for coffee most weekday mornings.
Frequent customers, many of them retired, also form bonds with each other.
“It’s good company. A nice way to start the day,” Cashman said.
Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @JoePiasecki.