In the center of Union Square in Allston sits a small, unassuming building with a name, Twin Donuts, spelled out in battered red letters. The building doesn’t appear to have changed much since it opened in the fifties, but today it is known for its cheap, delicious donuts and old-school diner feel.
Owned by Sou Pang, a Cambodian woman who bought the business with her late husband, Leang Sin Taing, in 2001, Twin Donuts is a quiet place to enjoy a cup of coffee and breakfast pastry or sandwich on a cold morning. The business opens its doors at 4 a.m., making it a beacon for workers whose shifts extend into the wee hours of the morning.
“Dunkin’ is good, but I like to support local businesses,” said Chris Love, a driver with Veterans Taxi who stops in at Twin Donuts when work has him out before dawn. “And the coffee’s pretty good,” he added.
John Shafranski, an employee at Spike’s Junkyard Dogs, works until 2 a.m. then waits for Twin Donuts to open. He comes in at least three times a week for a breakfast sandwich — sausage, egg and cheese on an English muffin — and some donuts, a habit he’s maintained for about ten years.
“I go home, hang out for a while, come here, and fall asleep with a donut on my chest,” said Shafranski.
Part of what makes the shop’s popularity so surprising is the presence of a 24-hour combination Dunkin’ Donuts and Tedeschi Food Shop that opened next door about five years ago. Still, Twin Donuts manages to draw a crowd of regulars who eschew the nearby chain options in favor of the Allston landmark.
The restaurant’s success is a big win for Leang Sin Taing, who had long dreamt of owning his own donut shop. Twenty years ago Taing went to California to learn the business of donut baking from relatives; there are many Cambodian-owned donut shops in the Golden State. He came back ready to open his own store.
Taing had worked in the Boston Scientific factory in Watertown for many years before opening a Cambodian restaurant with a relative in Lowell. He eventually convinced his wife to invest in purchasing Twin Donuts in 2001. Taing passed away in 2002.
Today his family owns two other cafés in the neighborhood: the Brighton Café in Brighton and Café Mirror in Allston. Business is good, says Taing’s daughter Catherine, who helps manage the cafés along with her who brothers, Wayne and Woo.
“If you want your donuts, come in at 4, because right now we don’t have many left,” she said at 9:30 one morning. The business bakes its goods nightly, but the small kitchen prevents workers from baking donuts and preparing other breakfast foods simultaneously during business hours — the result is a limit to the number of donuts stocked each day.
For now, though, there’s no need to worry about missing out. The family has no plans to sell the store anytime soon. It’s easy to maintain, says Taing, and while she has seen businesses come and go in Union Square, Twin Donuts will be staying put.
This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.