Two families, one donut shop get off to a healthy start during pandemic

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Courtesy photo Chocolate Buttermilk Donut

A father and daughter and father and son partnered together in a business venture that has found a successful beginning in the middle of the county’s COVID-19 pandemic. Holey Donuts in El Cajon is a collaboration between Tim Ovies and Eduardo Martinez Sr. Ovies said that the donut shop is actually owned by his daughter Karina Ovies and Eduardo “Eddie” Martinez Jr., and that “dad’s just here to teach her how business works.”

Tim Ovies, a Santee resident, has visited Mary’s Donuts for 10 years. In August 2019 Ovies asked baker Eduardo Martinez Sr. how long he had worked in the business and Marinez told him for more than 20 years. When Ovies asked him why he hadn’t started his own business Martinez’s reply was simply that he didn’t have the revenue for such a venture. So the two men began talking and in January, started moving forward to opening a new donut shop in El Cajon in the Boot Barn shopping center on Arnele Avenue. They opened their doors on March 25, well after the COVID-19 restrictions hit San Diego County.

“We knew that it was going to be slow, but we also thought it would be a great opportunity to serve the community, and to make sure everything was functioning,” said Tim Ovies. “Rather than let’s go jump into the ocean, let’s learn to just swim in the lake. Opening up during that time was really a smart business decision and it’s really worked out well. The community has embraced us.”

Holey Donuts makes fresh donuts every evening, so whatever is left in the morning Ovies loads in his car and takes them down to St. Vincent De Paul Villages in downtown. To date, Holey Donuts has donated more than 9,000 donuts to the shelter since  the donut shop opened. Ovies said this is a part of life for him passed on by his grandfather.

“There is one thing my grandfather said, and I hope my children learned this from me. My grandfather always told me that ‘by putting people first, you’ll never be second.’ That’s how I live, and I raised my children,” said Ovies.

Ovies said he was contacted by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office. They were trying to get some of the homeless people to come in for COVID testing and they asked Holey Donuts if they could bring treats to attract more people that might not otherwise show up.

“I wanted to do that for them and didn’t expect anything in return,” Ovies said.

“The mayor mentioned us in the State of the City address, sent us a letter thanking us,” he continued. “It was nice. But the real reward was doing what I like to do, helping other people.”

Faulconer said that one local bakery just “wanted to bring smiles to people’s faces at his press briefing.

“They’ve donated thousands of donuts to seniors and first responders across our region. And last week, they made a special trip to deliver 500 individually packaged donuts to brighten the day of those that are staying at the San Diego Convention Center,” Faulconer said.

Now that some coronavirus-related restrictions have been lifted, Ovies said they had their first dine-in customers on May 22 and that they are following all the guidelines set by the county.

“It was nice to see a family come in and sit at a table and enjoy their donuts,” he said.

Ovies said as you walk into the shop, there is a plexiglass on the right-hand side where the baker bakes, and this was done purposely.

“We designed it that way because we want to have Head Start and some pre-schools bring the kids up here and give them a small donut and some milk and have them watch the baker make donuts so they can see how they are made,” said Ovies.

Ovies said the true reward with partnering up with Martinez Sr. was when he met his wife.

“I’ve only met his wife one time in all this time,” said Ovies. “She took me aside before we opened in the shop here and she took me aside and said to me, ‘I sincerely want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping my husband reach his lifelong dream of owning his own shop.’ That was my true reward and that is why I do the things that I do. If I can make somebody’s life better, it’s worth it.”