Mr. Good's donuts
Regulars have been coming to Mr. Good’s on Valley Boulevard for two decades to get their fix of doughnuts and coffee to brace them for the morning commute. Duncan Cheng, the 25-year-old son of owner Eang Cheng, talks to the Alhambra Source about what it’s like to be behind the counter, how a family comes together to make sure there are always hot doughnuts ready, and what the top sellers are.
Mr. Good’s has been part of Valley Boulevard as long as I can remember. How long has it been around?
They’ve been here for more than 20 years. It’s been around for as long as I can remember, like since I was like one-year old.
So this doughnut shop is a family business? Do you always work here?
Here’s the thing, I have an older sister, and we both go to school. So we take turns watching the shop. In the morning, at 5 a.m., I come in and stay till 9 a.m.. And after that I go to school — I’m studying photography at ELAC now.
Do you bake the doughnuts?
Oh no. I just help at the shop—the customers, the cleaning. I make the croissants sometimes though. But mostly I just run the errands, get the supplies.
I’ve driven by here at dawn, and I see the shop already open. When does your dad come in everyday?
He comes in at 12 in the morning and starts baking. It’s always been like that. He has a routine, and he’s consistent. He comes home at like 8 in the morning and he’ll get some sleep. It’s like the opposite of our regular days. It’s 3:30 in the afternoon now, and he’s probably waking up and having his breakfast. My mom stays here all day. From 5 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m.
Are the doughnuts baked daily? Are they generally the same set of flavors?
Yeah they’re baked daily. Once in a blue moon, when my dad gets bored, he’ll try something new. And if it doesn’t work he’ll just stop doing it [laughs]. Fridays, Saturdays, Mondays, and Tuesdays are our busiest days, so we’ll make more on those days. There are certain doughnuts that we rarely make, because they’re harder to make. The buttermilks are really hard to make, plus its expensive to do.
What are the big sellers?
Everyone loves the ham-and-cheese croissants, but we don’t make too much of those, because they take time. Plus the plain sugar doughnuts. And all the kids like the doughnut holes.
Does your dad have a doughnut-baking system?
You know the funny thing is, my dad practically has OCD. He needs these things to be perfect. We’re supposed to have the doughnuts ready and out by 5 in the morning, but he doesn’t finish till 7 a.m., because he wants the customers to have them warm and fresh. And I’m not gonna lie: it does taste better fresh. The downside of it is, sometimes a customer will want a certain doughnut, but it’ll take a while to be done. But yeah, you can’t put on the icing and sugar unless it’s still hot. He just dips it into the icing and then lets it sit for a few minutes. My dad is all about how the doughnuts look. And here’s a technical thing, if you dip it into the icing too rough, it’ll rip up the dough. So you gently dip it, then let it sit.
So has the business model stayed the same throughout the years?
Right now it’s a little tough. So we’ve talked about promoting the store, but we haven’t really put our foot in the door. We should be doing that right now, but my parent’s don’t really know how to do these things — they’re very old fashioned. My sister made an account for the store on Yelp, and we were like “Oh yeah, that’s a good start.” [laughs]. We’ll see how that goes.
The surrounding neighborhood has gone through a lot of changes over the years. Have those changes affected the store in anyway?
When it comes to culture, there are differences, yes. A lot of the elderly come in here as regulars, and unfortunately we see a lot of them pass away, so the business gets a little slower. When I was young, all the customers were elderly, and they’d come and fill the store. They would tell us about what’s happening. Like, there would be six of them sitting, and one would say, “Oh, he’s passed away.” It goes on like that, and then there will be a new crew of elderly guys coming in.
Interview edited and condensed.