If you live in the East Bay, you’ve probably heard of Colonial Donuts. There are two locations, one in Montclair and one on Lakeshore. Phing Yamamoto manages both shops.
So tell me the story about how your parents purchased Colonial Donuts 40 years ago.
Yes, they did. They’re the classic American dream immigrants coming from Cambodia and needing to find something that they can do and build a life. And so opportunities came and they came to Oakland and purchased Colonial Donuts from their original owner, Richard Seymour.
You quit your job at Apple and started managing the shops in 2017? Why did you decide to make that switch?
I wanted to come back to Oakland because I think my tech life was great after college. But starting a family, I think it was really tough for me to balance commuting and work. It was a no brainer wanting to come back and give back to my community.
How has Colonial Donuts changed since you started managing it?
Well, there have been a lot of changes in terms of what we offer. I’ve brought on a lot of new flavors like the ube donut, red velvet, bacon maple, and gluten friendly donuts. And we do mochi donuts on the weekends, which I’m especially proud of because I really worked hard on that recipe.
So your parents must’ve seen a lot in the 40 years of owning this business. Are they still involved?
Yeah, they are still involved. This past summer, in June, when we had the robbery it was a true awakening for them because we’ve never experienced people actually jumping over the counter and dragging our cashier through the bakery.
What was the community reaction after that happened?
I think people were angry, angry that this happened to a 24 hour donut shop, you know, and we’ve been there for so many years. We’re an institution in Oakland. I think a lot of people were angry and they came out and supported us. They spoke to staff, flowers were given, notes, extra tips, and they bought extra donuts. They really just supported the staff and I think that was really meaningful for them and very empowering for the staff to know that they’re cherished.
How has it affected you, your family, the business, your staff, and what sort of changes are you hoping to see?
We’ve spent a lot of meetings with our councilmen. We’ve spoken to Mayor Sheng Tao, and we’re just hoping that our local leaders really hear us. We’re here to stay. I mean, I’m raising my three sons here and I hope to continue to stay here, support Oakland, and be a part of Oakland’s community for a very, very long time.
What are your dreams for Colonial Donuts in the future?
Maybe a location at the airport.
I think that would be amazing. I would love to see that. Phing Yamamoto, thank you.
Thank you. Thank you so much, Lisa.
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