Sweet things are happening in the middle of the night at Papa Jake’s Donut Shop, located at 1200 W. 16th St., as Tony Jacks and his family keep the 50-year-old pastry tradition alive by making all those donuts everyone is so fond of in Sedalia.
Jacks and his wife, Jennifer, daughter Maranda, 20, son Ari, 18, and aunt Pat Zahringer burn the midnight oil making donuts while most people sleep. Some of the family members arrive at 11:30 p.m. to begin the all-night process of making yeast and then cake donuts. Tony said Zahringer was 12-or 13-years-old when she began working at the shop, and has worked there nearly all her life.
To make the donuts, the group still uses Papa Jake’s original equipment which is still working well.
“The modern equipment that they use (now), the proof boxes are horrible, it’s all in what you’re used to,” Tony said.
By 4 a.m. customers begin to trickle in and the shelves are stocked with glazed donuts, cinnamon rolls, long Johns and twists, along with a myriad of other delectable treats. By 8 a.m. the place is full with regulars drinking coffee, talking and of course, eating their favorite donut.
This sequence of donut events has been taking place for almost 51 years and began in downtown Sedalia, with Marion Horace, also known as Papa Jake, and Stella Siragusa. The donuts’ flavor has never changed over the years, but the donuts have become and remained a Sedalia confectionery institution.
Tony is the grandson of Papa Jake and he and his family became the owners of the shop in 2005, taking over for his uncle, Vince Siegel.
“My uncle Vince was looking to retire and he approached me that Easter of 2004 and asked me if I wanted to take it over,” Tony said. “I said ‘well yeah.’ It was a great opportunity.”
Tony was born in Sedalia in 1966 and said he had always wanted to move back. His father worked for a grocery chain and the family moved around a lot until he was 7-years-old, settling in Moberly. Tony eventually joined the Marines, drove a truck for awhile, ran a Bourdeau Pizza for a year and half, and ran a vending route out of Moberly.
Eventually all the roads led him back home to Sedalia, to the donut business.
“It’s always been something that’s been in the family,” he said. “And we wanted to keep it in the family, and Vince was ready to retire. This was all in the works when his untimely passing happened.”
He said the donut shop is truly a family operation from Sedalia not a “transplant operation from somewhere else.”
And when his uncle died he had to pick up the knack for making donuts quickly.
“I got accelerated training,” he said. “And it’s not as easy as it looks, there was a little bit of a learning curve for me. My cousin Angie (Siegel) who worked here alongside Vince gave me the crash course.”
Tony said he learned the cooking techniques first and then his wife learned them afterward.
Although he’d worked on his vending route at 3 or 4 a.m., staying up all night to make donuts was very different for him.
“It was a change,” he said. “We’re here at 11:30 at night and it is an overnight thing, because we have so many wholesales that go out anywhere from 3 to 5 a.m.”
Papa Jake’s has 15 businesses that sell their donuts locally. The donuts are the handiwork of Tony’s grandmother Stella Siragusa. Although he said it isn’t necessarily a recipe per se, but a list of ingredients. One secret to their phenomenal pastries is using the best ingredients, he added.
“You have to know how to do it,” said Jennifer, who does all the finish work, such as frosting and glazing. “You can mess a donut up real quick.”
“We use the best flour and ingredients that you can buy,” Tony added. “We use C & H Sugar to make all of our glazes and icings. And everything that you get here is made here. All the glazings all the icings — we make it all ourselves. The marshmallow is made by us, everything is made by us. There are no frozen donuts that we just pull out of freezer. Everything is hand-cut by our hands not by somebody else.”
In keeping with good flavor that’s lasted for 50-plus years, there are no day old donuts for sale.
“We do not sell day old donuts,” Tony said. “Everything is handmade that day for that day’s business.”
If donuts are left over they are donated to charity.
“Grandma and grandpa sat the benchmark real high,” Tony said. “He was very much in the public’s eye, and grandma wanted nothing to do with anything public. It’s just a great business to be in, we’ve always given the best quality donut that you can get for the lowest price.”
Papa Jake’s Donut Shop is open from 4 a.m. to noon Tuesday through Sunday. For more information call them at 826-6176 or find them on Facebook at facebook.com/pages/Papa-Jakes-Donut-Shop/109034242470563.