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Ralph Primo, Founder of Primo’s Donuts and Family Patriarch, Dies at 93

Beloved Businessman Left Legacy of Service and Kindness

By Keemia Zhang

Ralph Primo Sr., founder of West Los Angles beloved donut shop Primo’s Donuts, died peacefully last Thursday, at the age of 93. According to the business’ Instagram post, he is survived by his wife and co-founder of Primo’s Donuts, Celia, his three children, and his grandchildren.

“It cannot be overstated how much of an impact the one and only Mr. Primo had during his long life, […] even as a devoted and involved member of the Los Angeles community,” reads a statement posted by the shop’s social media. “Whether it was baking a beautifully made donut, performing a neat little magic trick, or telling a corny grandpa joke, Mr. Primo always had a smile on his face with customers.”

Primo’s Donuts, one of the oldest establishments on Sawtelle Blvd, was founded in the spring of 1956. An Air Force veteran of the Korean War, Primo originally intended to take a second part-time job at a donut shop to support his family while attending night school. He instead bought a donut shop from storekeeper Paul Hodge for $2,000. 

Primo suggested to his wife, Celia, that “we’ll run the business for a year – build it up – then sell it and we’ll get a better house.” Nearly seven decades later, Primo’s Donuts remains a family-run business, owned and operated by his son, Ralph Jr. The shop continues to use Primo’s original recipes and icing decorations. Two years ago, Primo’s opened a second location in Westwood, replacing longtime stalwart Stan’s Donuts with another mom-and-pop pastry shop.

In a 2021 interview, Primo Jr. emphasized the business’s community ties. “Being in the business for so long, it’s not unusual to have a grandfather bring in a grandkid and tell us his own grandfather used to bring him there. Making people happy is the best part of the job.”

Longtime customers have expressed their condolences to Primo’s family on social media. “​​We grew up with the Primo’s, my entire gang of childhood friends are devastated […] I brought my kids there often and the Primos always treated them like family,” said one commenter on the shop’s Instagram. “Never realized that I was a part of LA history every time I came in to get donuts,” said another. “That man is a legend. My heart goes out to the Primo family. Rest in peace.”

One simply said, “Thank you for the best donuts in LA!!”

Details for Primo’s memorial service are set to be announced. Customers can visit the shop’s locations at 2918 Sawtelle Blvd or 10948 Weyburn Ave. During the holiday season, donut shoppers will enjoy the store’s famous festive window art, a tradition continued by Primo’s grandson, Nick.

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