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Donut shop owner Stan Berman remembered for contributions to community

Stan Berman is pictured. Berman, who owned a donut shop in Westwood that closed in 2020, died Feb. 6. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Dylan Winward

Feb. 22, 2024 7:40 p.m.

Stan Berman, the owner of former popular Westwood donut shop Stan’s Donuts, died Feb. 6. He was 94 years old.

Located at the intersection of Weyburn and Broxton Avenues from December 1963 until April 2020, the shop was a staple of the Westwood community and often hosted students and celebrities alike. Before opening the shop, Stan served in the United States Marines Corps from 1951 to 1953, working as a baker at Camp Pendleton near San Diego for 18 months, said his son Scott Berman.

He is survived by his three children, 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Stan came from a long line of Jewish bakers and started working seven days a week in bakeries at the age of 9, Scott said. He added that his father’s experience as a full-fledged baker, which was unusual for donut-makers at the time, helped him be creative in his menu design.

Another thing that made Stan’s Donuts successful was how Stan interacted with customers, taking the time to chat to everyone who came in, said Daniel Gaines, Stan’s grandson.

“He knew everybody,” Gaines said. “I would work in his donut shop when I was a youngster, and every other person who walked in would be a friend or an acquaintance … I’d be introduced to.”

Steve Sann, chair of the Westwood Community Council, said he had visited Stan’s Donuts as a customer since he was an undergraduate at UCLA. He added that the shop was a staple of the glamorous days of Westwood’s ascendancy within the film industry, as the shop hosted celebrities including Ali MacGraw, Steve McQueen and Elizabeth Taylor, as well as Bruin athletes and coaches such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

(Daily Bruin file photo)
People inside the Stan’s Donuts location in Westwood are pictured. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Stan’s Donuts also became well known beyond Westwood. His recipes were featured on PBS and the Food Network television programs, Scott said. He added that the secret to Stan’s national success was his attention to detail, making the product in small batches.

Scott said his dad’s local prominence rose to a national reputation when Forbes ranked Stan’s Donuts as the No. 1 donut shop in the U.S.

“Stan’s makes, at last count, 50 different kinds of doughnuts—the kind that slide down your throat before you can reconsider your gluttony,” according to Forbes in 2001.

Stan also hosted voter registration tables in his store and donated to local nonprofits, said former District 5 City Councilmember Paul Koretz. Scott added that his father also donated donuts to people experiencing homelessness.

Sann said members of the community also lobbied for Stan’s Donuts to be celebrated by the Los Angeles City Council, and the mayor’s office declared May 3 as ‘Stan’s Donuts Day’ in 2014. At an event celebrating the decision, Stan sold donuts for 10 cents each, the same price as when he first opened.

Eventually, in April 2020, Berman closed his business because of concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

[Related: Community rises to express support and nostalgia for Stan’s Donuts after closure]

When the shop closed, Stan received a letter from Chancellor Gene Block thanking him for his contributions to the local and university community. Stan provided donuts for UCLA shops and cafes until 2000, and Sann also said Berman served as part of UCLA’s Mardi Gras celebrations.

Even though the original Stan’s Donuts location closed, a franchised chain of 30 stores remains open in Illinois. The franchise opened in 2014.

Rich Labriola, the franchise owner of Stan’s Donuts in Chicago, said he first got the idea to expand Stan’s to the Midwest after seeing a program about the shop on the Travel Channel. He added that even though Stan shared his baking expertise with the chain’s expansion, it has been impossible to recreate the personal experience of speaking to Stan in the store.

“His personality is what created that location to be an icon,” Labriola said. “Don’t get me wrong, the donuts were very good, but without his personality and things, I don’t think it would have been as iconic as it turned out to be.”

One of the things that made Stan’s most impressive was the peanut butter pocket, Labriola said, adding that its design took pastry expertise to be able to pull off.

Gaines said Stan was always keen to spend time with his grandchildren, going to dinner parties with couples who were much younger than he was and taking his grandchildren with him when he traveled.

Scott added that his father also enjoyed eating rich and heavy foods and took pride in earning enough money to travel around Europe and eat at Michelin-starred restaurants despite his humble beginnings.

“He was very proud that he was able to work hard and have success that was beyond his wildest expectations,” he said.

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Dylan Winward | Features and student life editor
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year statistics and english literature student.
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year statistics and english literature student.
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