Sam and Linda Yin believe in big. The cinnamon rolls, bear claws and bierocks at their Bullard Donut and Bakery are super size.
The bierocks are 7 ½ inches long and 4 inches wide. I measured. The price: $3.
The Yins – who came to the United States from Cambodia — seem to understand a basic American truth: bigger is better.
Linda said generous portions make good business sense: “I like a lot of customers coming in.”
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The Yins opened Bullard Donut and Bakery at the corner of Bullard and Fowler avenues in late January. They had retired after running a succession of small food shops, but were bored at home.
So Sam works overnight making donuts and Linda arrives before sunup to help make the bierocks, as well as ham and cheese danishes. The danishes are big, too, and go for $1.
Cresencio Sanchez makes the dough for the bierocks, danishes and Mexican breads at Bullard Donut and Bakery. The Mexican fare includes empanadas, a fried pastry that Sanchez makes with three different fruit fillings: apple, pineapple and pumpkin.
The bierocks have the traditional filling of ground beef, cabbage and onion, plus garlic and spices.
Linda uses Monterey jack cheese and extra-lean ham in the danishes.
Sam has spent the nearly 30 years tweaking the recipe for his donut dough. His donuts include buttermilk, coconut-raised, custard-filled, glazed, lemon-filled, old-fashioned, plain cake and raspberry-filled. The shop also sells apple fritters, chocolate and maple bars, French crullers, and glazed and sugar twists.
Prices range from 80 cents to $1.25.
After 3 p.m., Linda drops prices, partly to accommodate the after-school crowd from nearby Clovis High School and Clark Intermediate School. Linda said the schools’ proximity to the shop — plus the nearby Clovis government offices — make Bullard and Fowler a good location.
Robin Driver buys donuts two or three times a week. “They have a wonderful taste, and these are hard-working people who greet you with a smile. They’re the best,” he said.
In the Yins’ native country, donuts are unknown. But that’s only a minor footnote to their story of heartache, danger, hope and opportunity.
Sam served in the Cambodian Air Force, which made him particularly vulnerable when the Khmer Rouge communist regime gained power in 1975. The Khmer Rouge evacuated Cambodian cities and sent people on forced marches to rural work projects. The communists rejected Western medicine and destroyed temples, libraries, and anything considered Western.
It’s estimated the Khmer Rouge killed 2 million people — about a quarter of the Cambodian population.
Many people, including the Yins, fled the country. The Yins spent 1979 to 1981 in a refugee camp in Thailand and then resettled in El Cajon in San Diego County.
Sam attended school in Cambodia and he believed education “could save you” in the United States, said his son, Sarath. So Sam earned an associate degree in electrical engineering from a community college in San Diego. But he found it difficult to work because of language difficulties and prejudice, Sarath said.
Needing a job to support his family, Sam opened a donut shop. The work is hard and requires long hours, but it’s an option for immigrants searching for a foothold in America, Sarath said.
The Yins eventually moved to the Bay Area, where they continued to make and sell donuts. Sarath said he was 10 or 11 when he started working with his father because there was no extra money to hire employees.
“I didn’t have a regular childhood,” Sarath said. “I worked a lot.”
In 1990, the Yins moved to Fresno and opened a donut shop near First Street and McKinley Avenue. Sarath and his sisters, Salie and Holly, helped out in the shop after school.
“It was the only way we could survive,” Sarath said. “Our parents told us we needed to find a way to be educated. But we were just trying to survive as we assimilated — just as our parents were trying to do.”
Sarath and his sisters graduated from McLane High School and all three pursued higher education.
Sarath, 39, earned a degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, did post-graduate work at several universities, including Fresno State, and worked as a pharmacy technician. He is now completing medical school in the Caribbean.
Salie, 36, graduated from the University of California, Davis and works as a clinic laboratory scientist at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
Holly, 34, also graduated from UC Davis and became a pharmacist after attending a university in Connecticut. She’s in the process of getting licensed to work in California.
Linda said the long hours at Bullard Donut and Bakery are worth it.
“We have to make money for the kids’ school,” she said. “It’s important for kids to have a good education.”
The Yin children still help their parents.
Sarath is home this summer to check out medical residency programs in California — he’s interested in family practice or geriatrics. But one recent afternoon, he was cleaning the counter, while Holly swept the floor. Salie came by after work.
“To have the opportunity for a better life,” Sarath said. “It’s always been the main goal of our parents for us.”
The better life. One donut at a time.
Bullard Donut and Bakery is at 1779 N. Bullard Ave., Suite 102. The phone number is (559) 324-8839. The shop is open 4:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily.