There are few places in Monterey that can be defined by just one word. However, if anyone has lived on the Peninsula for any length of time and hear the name “Red’s", you know that means only one thing...THE BEST DONUTS! Since 1950 Men, Women, and children of all ages have been flocking to a small store on Alvarado Street for a Red’s donut.
In March of 1950, Herman “Red" O’Donnell wanted nothing but to escape the blazing heat of Arizona with his family, so they came to Monterey, California. Red brought his wife Helen and their two small children, Terry and Kathy. They came here “just to check the weather" with no idea of what the future could possibly bring.
Red’s brother, Martin, owned Martin’s Shoe Store on Alvarado street. As care would have it, across the street at 433 Alvarado Street was a small donut shop with a “For Sale” sign in the window. Red, with intents of starting a new life, walked across the street and went right in. He talked to the man who was selling the donut shop and ultimately found out the asking price was $3,000.
Red called Helen to talk about possibly buying the business. Helen had one major objection about randomly buying the business: Red knew absolutely nothing about making donuts! Red assured her that as part of the deal, the man would teach him how to make donuts. The deal didn’t sound so bad anymore. Red and Helen agreed to plant their roots in Monterey to see what could grow and little did they know that Red’s Donuts would become a fixture on Alvarado for over 70 years.
If you left the State Theater from a late movie in the ’50s-’60s, you were drawn by the sweet smell of fresh donuts drifting through the air. As you follow your nose, you would discover Red through the windows making his handmade donuts. If you were down on your luck and were to wander the streets in the wee hours of the morning, you could count on a free donut or two from Red. You never knew who would stop by. The late Bing Crosby would often come in, sit near the donut fryer, and spend hours singing songs with Red. Crosby was not the only famous face around, Red also became friends with Clint Eastwood, who would drop by for a fresh hot glazed donut and talked with Red.
An artist by the name of Bill Woodard, who had worked at Disney, came to Monterey around the same time as Red. They met and became best friends. Bill hand-painted 12 different clown portraits and gave them to Red to put on the cream color walls. As the years have passed, more and more clowns of all shapes and sizes have been added to the collection. When you walk into Red’s, you are greeted by a wooden bordered glass case holding the fresh donuts which are then followed by a long counter with stools to sit on, just the way it was in 1950. The walls are adorned with paintings and pictures of clowns and old photographs.
In 1964, with Red & Helen’s family now grown to five children (Mary, Matthew, Anne, Terry, and Kathy) they expanded the business with a shop in Seaside. For a time, Red continued to make the donuts in the Alvarado location. However, in 1967 Red became ill and was unable to continue working. The actual making of the donuts was moved to the Seaside location, and Helen took over the day to day operation of the business, along with their daughter Kathy. By the time Red passed away in 1974, his younger son Matthew was making donuts daily with the same crafting care his father taught him before passing away. When Helen passed away in 1994, Matthew and Kathy became the official owners of the family business.
Matthew and Kathy ran Red’s with the same integrity and care ingrained in them by Red and Helen. Along with 22 dedicated employees, the family’s legacy continued to live on. In the year of 2018, Matthew passed on the business to Rosa and Rene Reyes, who have faithfully worked here for 24 years. They continued to maintain the same old Red's tradition and always make sure things don't change. Matthew continues to work here in the morning and you can still see him play dice with his loyal customers.
Anyone with some business common sense knows that you can’t keep customers and employees for decades without remembering the golden rule in business: always make sure the customer leaves satisfied. People continue to return day after day, year after year to an iconic, family-owned, and operated a little shop on Alvarado Street simply known as “Red’s".