By Al Moen
Special to the Burbank Leader
After 40 years of serving his loyal customers in and around the city of Burbank, Mahmud “Mike” Abdelghani, the man known as the “Donut Prince,” retired on Dec. 31.
Abdelghani, 65, a resident of La Cañada Flintridge, adopted his nickname when many of his customers had trouble pronouncing his given name, so he has been affectionately known by “Mike” ever since opening shop in Burbank.
Abdelghani was born in Giza, Egypt, the middle child in a family of three brothers and five sisters. In his early teens, he immigrated to the United Kingdom. in pursuit of furthering his education and improving his English, as he was already fluent in Arabic and French. While studying and living in England, he also worked full time at various restaurants as a waiter. Because of his language skills and his friendly personality, his boss singled him out for serving in his upscale silver service restaurant.
After several years in England, he took the advice and encouragement of one of his brothers to join him in America. Abdelghani arrived in California in 1972 and enrolled in college, eventually receiving his bachelor’s degree in biology from UCLA. He continued work in the food industry during his college days, which led him to become a highly skilled baker and pastry man. When the opportunity presented itself, Abdelghani bought into his first donut shop. Twenty years later and before the popularity of vegetarian and vegan fare, Abdelghani owned and operated four donut shops and employed 27 people. During that time, he supplied 200 dozen donuts to the fledgling Big Box Store “Fedco.” But alas, the public’s appetite changed, which lead to his decision to sell off two of his shops.
In 1996, after continuous requests from a persistent employee to buy it, he sold him the most visible shop, located in the center of Burbank on Olive Avenue near the NBC Studios. He allowed the new owner to share the Donut Prince name, while Abdelghani took over the smaller location on Irving Drive.
Over the years and before CDC restrictions on gatherings, this location has been known to be frequented by anyone and everyone in Burbank and adjacent environs. For many years, one could catch up (eavesdrop, rather) on Burbank City Council members discussing the woes of their constituents, while enjoying a cup of coffee and a warm croissant or jelly-filled donut. It was also well known as the place to go for free unsolicited advice and guidance on any problem — big or small. These same pundits have cordially invited Abdelghani to join the “Free Advice Board of Directors” any time he would like, but he plans to enjoy some much deserved relaxation with his wife and adult children, while awaiting grandchildren.
As Abdelghani departed for the last time, he solemnly reassured his old patrons that the new owner promises to continue making his famous offerings with the same “non-fattening/calorie free recipes.”