UPDATE — They’re open!
This is supposed to be the time of year for feeling Mary, or something like that. But I’ve always been a little grinchy about Christmas. And then today, I got hit by devastating news that just killed any desire I might have had to celebrate. It wasn’t completely unexpected; there had been a little advance warning, but I had been in denial. But I got cold hard confirmation today, like a virtual punch in the stomach. I can sense some of my readers trying to guess what’s coming. Is Linden getting married? No, far worse. This doesn’t just shatter fantasies; it shuts off a real source of carnal pleasure. Spaldings is closed!
I can almost hear the reactions out there in cyber-space; a mixture of “Oh No!” from those who understand and “Huh?” from others. And those who understand probably also understand why this can’t be fully explained to the “Huh?” crowd.
Spaldings is (or was) a doughnut shop in north Lexington. But, unless you’ve tasted their doughuts, you can’t understand why their closing is such a big deal. You’re thinking “Surely there are other doughnut shops. Lexington even has a Krispy Kreme outlet now!” Pardon me while I puke. I’m tempted to say that Krispy Kreme is the Bud Light of doughnuts. But the problem with that comparison is that then I’d need to name a beer that’s on a par with Spaldings doughnuts for comparison. And, as much as I like beer, I’ve never had one that stands out from all the others the way a Spaldings doughnut does.
Spaldings was also a wonderful Lexington tradition. It was a small family-owned business that was just open Wednesday through Saturday (which made some Monday mornings pure hell), from 7:30 AM until they ran out of doughnuts, which was usually about 9:00 AM. A few years ago, they refused to talk to a newspaper reporter, because they were afraid it would increase their business, and they had all they needed.
Their location also added to the mystique. They were in an .. umm .. interesting section of town. A liquor store across the street used to have a sign in the window: “Do not run into store to dodge police!” The opposite corner was a frequent hangout for …um … working girls. The popular euphemism “ladies of the evening” wouldn’t apply here, since these gals seemed to be in business 24/7. Once, when making an pre-work doughnut run, I was offered an alternative way to spend my money. Sorry honey, nothing personal, but the folks at work are really expecting doughnuts.
At this point, somebody not in the know might think that all this atmosphere has psychologically enhanced the taste, making the doughnuts seem to taste better just because they’re from the legendary Spaldings. That just ain’t true. They really are better. That’s been confirmed by foreigners who used to think Krispy Kremes were the ultimate in doughnuts, until they tasted Spaldings, without even knowing any of the legendary background.
It has been a while since I experienced the ecstasy of a Spaldings doughnut. I really needed it this week. Actually, I really needed it Monday, but I knew I would have to wait. Monday and Tuesday, I fought off withdrawal pains by reminding myself how good it was going to be. Wednesday morning, I made the detour on my way to work, and saw the building closed, with no sign in the window to explain it.
Denial kicked in at first. Surely it was just a temporary closure. They’ve done that before, for an illness or death in the family. And sometimes they just decide to shut down for a week or two for vacation, especially around the holidays. Maybe I’ll just have to suffer through Christmas and somehow make it to January. The voice of denial shouted down the nagging little voice of reality which tried to remind me that they always put a sign in the window saying when they would re-open when they closed temporarily in the past. I kept telling myself the lack of a sign was not bad news.
Thursday was still the same story. No sign, no sign of life. I remained in my state of denial until I got to work, and asked a co-worker if life as we knew it was over. He confirmed the sad news; he had heard that they were indeed permanently closed. They just decided they were tired of it.
Worse news, he said, was that they had decided not to sell the recipe. But we both agreed that really made no difference. Even if they had decided to pass on the recipe, it’s highly doubtful that anybody else would really be able to duplicate it. He even suggested that anybody who tried might run into serious problems with the health department. There were some things about Spaldings that you just didn’t want to question, because they were probably part of the magic, and the less said, the better.