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The Hole Truth

Lou's Living Donut Museum

By Traci Vogel

WAR AND DONUTS: the two go together like drinking and cigarettes, like fishing trips and missing wives--well, let's just say the two things go together. And if there's any argument to the contrary, one visit to Lou's Living Donut Museum will suffice to squash it.

Images of Lou Ades and his friends hold up the wall at this miniature factory tucked away on Delmas Avenue in San Jose ensuring that while Lou himself is no longer living, his story soldiers on. In life, Lou was an American success story: a college sports ace, an amateur film star and a captain in the Army Air Corps during World War II. After the war, Lou returned home and happened to befriend a donut maker. He decided the sweet life was for him and established Lou's in 1955, originally on the corner of 16th and Santa Clara streets.

When it came time for Lou to retire, in 1981, he chose to hand the business over to two of his longtime employees--brothers Charles and Richard Chavira. In his honor, the brothers refashioned the shop as a museum, a veritable deep-fried shrine to Lou and his history.

Model airplanes, medals, letters and other mementos bristle in the shop's small foyer. And then there are the donuts: perhaps there is no finer legacy to Lou than the consistent deliciousness of the Donut Museum fare. Cake donuts roll out dense but moist; maple bars are light as air; glazed yeast donuts come with the hole attached--a creative bit of gratuitous generosity. Lou's also sells whole wheat donuts, which are reportedly toothsome. Wondering how all these sugary confections came into being? Guided tours of the factory are offered for school classes and companies. Don't assume you'll be initiated into the whole donut mystique, however--Lou's actual donut recipe is a well-kept family secret.

Lou's Living Donut Museum is a testament to the fact that, just as the angel said in It's a Wonderful Life, "One man's life touches so many others; when he's not there it leaves an awfully big hole." So long as the hole a man leaves is attached to a donut, that's not such a terrible notion.

Lou's Living Donut Museum Hours: Mon-Sat, 6am-2pm. Admission: Free; donuts extra. 387 Delmas Ave., San Jose; 408.295.5887. www.heartsdelights.com/lous/

Favorite Local Collections

Rite of Pez-age: The Museum of Pez Memorabilia in Burlingame.

The Hole Truth: Lou's Living Donut Museum in San Jose.

Composing a Life: The Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University.

Waste Not: The Garbage Museum in Milpitas.

Lofty Ambitions: The Wings of History Museum in San Martin.

High-Tech Hit Parade: The Intel Museum in Santa Clara.

History Lesson: The Japanese-American Museum of San Jose.

Beyond the Doily: The Lace Museum in Sunnyvale.

Museums: A complete guide to local museums.

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From the March 13-19, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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