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Donut king Danny Johnson just opened one of Old Sacramento's newest businesses.
Johnson parlayed an infatuation with donuts into Danny's Mini Donuts – 30 years after putting himself through junior college by making donuts. Only this time, the donuts are really, really small.
Measuring 1 1/2 inches wide, a dozen of the plain light cake donuts contain about 13 grams of fat. Johnson also offers them topped with cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar, chocolate, vanilla or carmel seconds after frying them in a miniature donut maker. Candy sprinkles are optional.
Krispy Kreme uses the same kind of machine. That company's donut maker is about 15 feet long and 4 feet wide. Johnson's American-made Lil' Orbits donut machine is just 6 inches wide and less than 3 feet long, he said.
"It can make 1,200 donuts an hour. That's a lot of donuts," said Johnson inside the donut shop at 900 Second St.
The smell of hot, fresh donuts lures visitors to the open doors of the little shop, tucked into a corner at Pioneer Square. Johnson draws people inside with friendly conversation and free samples.
"I buy a dry donut mix. Then I add some secret ingredients," he said.
The tiny donut machine first caught his eye in 1977. Johnson took an 18-month vocational baking course right out of high school, then worked his way through junior college making donuts at Winchell's Donuts and another donut shop.
Three years ago, after being laid off from a middle management job with Catholic Healthcare West, Johnson bought a mini donut maker and went back into the business. He's been selling at fairs and festivals from Turlock to Chico. He opened the shop in Old Sacramento on March 1.
Johnson plans to add one or two ovens so he can offer cookies, fritters, cinnamon rolls and cupcakes.
"I'm going to start baking. Everything mini, though," he smiled.
The historic district has seen other movement in recent weeks, with some businesses opening and others closing.
A restaurant and bar called The Other Office and a home and garden store, Gabby Girl, both opened on Second Street.
Old Sacramento property owner Ben Mortel had a soft opening for The Other Office at 926 Second St., in December. He plans to extend the hours from 6 p.m. - 2 a.m. on weekends and special events only to 2 p.m. - 2 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday after St. Patrick’s Day on Thursday, March 17.
The menu offers sandwiches, salads and soup. Mortel said he's searching for a chef to serve Italian food.
A sign went up just last week. The location previously held Novo and Tunel 21, owned by Vlade Divac, his wife, Ana, and her sister, Jelica Orbovic. Orbovic is a silent partner in the new business.
Mortel owns the Blue Wing Saloon building containing the restaurant/bar, and two other buildings now connected inside: the Sazerac Building next door and the Colletti Drug building around the corner. A structural engineer, Mortel is also a partner in the Ebner Hotel/Empire House and other properties.
Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice John Lautner designed the Blue Wing Saloon's interior. That is reportedly the only work Lautner did in Sacramento, Mortel said.
"That is the actual reason I bought this crazy building," he said.
Gabby Girl opened last month at 1013 Second St. The shop sells products for the home and garden and women's accessories.
The Russian Collection, 1100 Second St., and Old Sacramento Airbrush & California Underground Novelty, 129 J St., have both closed. A jewelry store, Filthy Rich, also moved to a ground-floor shop at Pioneer Square in January.
Video by Suzanne Hurt, a staff reporter at The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @SuzanneHurt.