Richmond resident visits Andy’s Donuts for first time

Richmond resident visits Andy’s Donuts for first time
Andy's Donut owner Randy Chow (left) and founder Alberta Heltsley operate the city's legendary popular donut shop. (All photos by Kathy Chouteau)

By Kathy Chouteau

I am a Richmond resident, and, somehow, I’d never been to the famous Andy’s Donut Stop at 971 23rd St. in Richmond. Until last week.

You can’t miss this iconic shop. With its eye-catching 1950s-era red and white retro exterior and snazzy signs, Andy’s stands tall amongst its 23rd St. neighbors—as it should. Andy’s is the unofficial OG of 23rd St., having made its home there serving up donuts since 1954, when Alberta “Bertie” Heltsley and her late husband, Earl, first set up shop.

These days, Andy’s is under new ownership, with Randy Chow having bought it three years ago, but Alberta Heltsley and her sister, Vi Powers, still work behind the counter, offering a friendly hello to all the regulars who flow through the door.

Aside from selling every donut under the sun, Andy’s also serves a variety of breakfast sandwiches made on English muffins, bagels and croissants. Coffee, milk and other drinks round out the breakfast-leaning offerings.

This reporter stopped by Andy’s on a recent Sunday to sample the 65-year-old Richmond institution’s famed donuts. A first-timer, I was delighted by what I encountered upon entering the “stop.” The best of Richmond was on display…A homegrown business serving up mouth-watering offerings to its loyal customers in a friendly environment with a familiar feel.

I ordered a dozen donuts to take out and share with my family members: A mixture of jelly, French cruller, custard, cake and raised & glazed (some with rainbow sprinkles for my young son) that were served in a charming pastry box that evoked Andy’s 50’s- era roots.

Suffice to say, the sharks were circling the moment I arrived home with said pastry box in hand, ready to pry it from my fingers if necessary. The first donuts to go were a jelly donut, a plain glazed donut and the glazed donut with rainbow sprinkles.

Andy’s makes their donuts fresh every day, and you can literally taste the freshness. My husband, Zach Chouteau, described his plain glazed donut as “quintessentially perfect” and “old school in the best possible way.” For his part, my seven-year-old son, Logan, said his “rainbow donut” was a “ten-out-of-ten” and “light and fluffy.” My jelly donut—of which I can be pretty particular—knocked it out of the park with its delicious jelly and fresh, puffy encasement.

Andy’s got rave reviews all around and we will definitely be returning to not only order the donuts again but also to try out the breakfast sandwiches, which one regular customer highly recommended.

Felix Herrera, the aforementioned regular customer, grew up in Andy’s neighborhood and said he has known Bertie Heltsley “since he was in his mother’s womb.” Herrera, whose favorite Andy’s donuts are the maple bar and the maple raised donut with coconut, thinks that the “stop” should be designated as a Richmond “historic landmark” and says he feels “more at home here than anywhere.”

Andy’s owner, Chow, says that popular orders at the “stop” are the bear claw, glazed and custard-filled donuts and the apple fritters. He added that “kids really like the donut holes.”

According to Herrera, Andy’s busiest times are weekends—especially Sundays—and also Wednesdays. Another Herrera tip? The donut “stop” gives out free donuts to kids on Halloween. “The line goes out the door,” he said with a knowing smile.

Andy’s Donut Stop is nothing short of a Richmond institution; if you haven’t been there before, we recommend you go NOW. The best part? You can visit anytime you want, because Andy’s is open 24 hours a day at its 971 23rd St. Richmond location. For more info call 510-232-6057 or click here.