Thomas' Donut & Snack Shop is a Laguna Beach Legend
June 3, 2013 by Gwen Break
The parking lot may be gravel but the view is strictly high class at Thomas' Donut & Snack Shop on the west end of Panama City Beach. Located about 3.5 miles east of Carillon Beach, at 19208 Front Beach Road, Thomas Donuts is a place tourists seek out and locals go for breakfast and lunch.
The place is right across from a beautiful set of dunes and quiet stretch of beach perfect for a picnic of fried shrimp or pizza. There's nothing fancy about the indoor or the outdoor seating. There's nothing fancy about the decor or the menu. It's just plain goodness at a good price. It's a beach shack that everone loves.
It's so retro there's even a pay phone out front. You might catch a kid or two staring at it for awhile before picking up the receiver and pretending to make an old-fashioned telephone call.
Now in its third generation of the Thomas family, not much has changed since the family began its businesses along the beach.
“My grandmother used to have me in a bassinet on the dough table when I was a baby, so you can say I have always been a part of the business in some form. I took over The Donut Shop in 2007 after I got out of the Coast Guard,” explains Michael Thomas.
“My Great Aunt Johnnie had been in charge for about 15 years and the shop was still owned by my grandparents, George and Inez Thomas. My father Mike now owns the business and I oversee the day-to-day operations.
“My father owns and operates Mike's Cafe and Oyster Bar three miles east of Thomas Donuts. We have been in business at this location since 1946 and hopefully will be in 2046! We make our donuts fresh everyday and never sell day-old donuts.
“At the current location, my grandparents operated an ice house, which was where our outside dining is now, from ‘46 to ‘74 when Hurricane Eloise took it down.
“In ‘71 my grandfather built the donut shop next to the ice house with his own hands and had no earthly idea how to make a donut. He bought the equipment from a firm in New Orleans on credit then had to call them and tell them that if they wanted to see any money from him they were going to have to send someone over to teach him how to make a donut.
“Anyway, Eloise spared the donut shop so he and my grandmother ran the shop, with the help of their children, for many years.
“I worked it with my Aunt Johnnie after I finished FSU but after a year I realized there was something missing for me and that’s when I joined the U.S. Coast Guard. Now I am here for good, and I love it!”
“Yes, my old New Orleans friends still come and play on holiday weekends for not much more than chicken biscuits, sweet tea, donuts and rum!
“And yes, there is a secret ingredient.”
Thomas Donuts is a place where you just know Ernest Hemmingway would have wanted to visit. With its clapboard construction and nothing but a stretch of asphalt separating it from the beach, it is reminiscent to the days of drive-ins and grilled burgers.
In addition to the area’s most talked about donuts, the Thomases also serve a full menu of sandwiches, munchies and their accompaniments, in addition to bagels, breakfast biscuits and kolaches.
There is inside dining but don’t expect tablecloths or anything but the same 1946 icehouse atmosphere. Thomas Donuts & Snack Shop is open daily 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., except Wednesdays, when it is closed. Breakfast is served until 10:30 a.m.
See their menu at www.thomasdonuts.com. You can also visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ThomasDonutShop and Four Square, http://foursquare.com/venue/13788877. Call them at (850) 234-8039.