Donut shops in RP and nearby rely on SE Asian management
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By Jud Snyder  December 6, 2013 12:00 am

To get a handle on retail doughnut shops in Sonoma County, it helps to know about Cambodia. Or maybe Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, Singapore and neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. This could be hard to explain to a typical American who considers doughnuts in the same class as Mom’s apple pie. But the connection exists and Rohnert Park has a solid example.

It’s called Jelly’s Donuts and is owned by Bun Chao, 29, and his wife, Sonavy Kour, 28, both from Cambodia. They have a three-year old son, Demitri, who will soon be enrolled in an RP pre-school. How they got here from a previously war-torn Cambodian city is quite a story.

“My mother and father, along with me, came to California in 1991. My father’s brother had a doughnut shop in Santa Rosa,” Bun Chao remembers. “I was only seven years old, my father learned the trade and opened his own donut (let’s use the familiar spelling) shop in Windsor.

“My father bought this RP shop in 1994, while I went to RP elementary schools and graduated from Rancho Cotate High School in 2003,” Bun said. “I learned the techniques, so you could say making donuts kind of runs in the family,” he laughed.

Jelly’s Donuts is in the University Square shopping center across from the high school. It’s in the small building here and its main entrance overlooks Snyder Lane.

“My work day starts at about midnight when I prepare the dough and light the cookers. My father’s shop in Windsor doesn’t have a kitchen so he’s here with me making donuts to bring back there,” Bun said. “We open at 5 am and stay open until 3:30 in the afternoon. Saturdays and Sundays we close at 1 pm.” Phone number is 795-3378.

“Yes, I know, it’s a 14-hour work day for me, but I’m used to this schedule. My wife, Sonavy (so-NAH-vee), takes care of Demitri during the day but comes down here to help me clean up after we close.”

Bun and Sonavy were childhood acquaintances back in Cambodia. They later kept in touch with each other via mail, then e-mails and texting and were married in Cambodia. Sonavy came to Rohnert Park in 2009. 

The display of goodies in Jelly’s Donuts is filled with plain, old-fashioned, glazed or not, apple fritters, a lot are chocolate-covered with little candies on top. It’s a tantalizing collection and you could spend minutes making up your mind as you grip the counter staring at the assortment. 

“I estimate we get about forty percent of our sales from Rancho students,” said Bun. “We also have SSU and Credo High students visiting us.

“The new thing coming up is called Cronuts,” he added. “These are donuts made with croissant dough. They’re a bit tricky for the dough comes in layers. I’m learning how to make them for they might become very popular.

“You know, when I was a child in Cambodia we never had donut shops. Now we have Dunkin’ Donuts franchises in all the cities. We also have Col. Sanders and his KFC chickens, but they’re quite a bit spicier for Cambodian tastes.”

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