A lot has changed in downtown Overland Park the past 50 years. Literally hundreds of businesses have come and gone. The last remnants of the Eisenhower-era motor lodge culture that dominated the neighborhood in its formative years have faded away, and new multi-family housing projects promise to bolster the renaissance already in progress.
Through all that change, though, one sweet little shop has remained.
John and Velma Taylor first opened John’s Space Age Donut Shop at 8124 Floyd Street in 1967. Fifty years later, their sons John and Rodney dish out the same glazed, custard-filled and iced-with-sprinkles pastries that gained the shop a loyal following back in its first years, when NASA’s Apollo program was in full swing.
“It was the middle of the space race,” the younger John said. “We hadn’t reached the moon yet, but there was a lot of excitement about it. So my parents came up with that name, ‘Space Age Donuts.'”
John and Velma had initially bought the building on Floyd as an investment property, and were happy to take rent from a car repair shop on the site while they ran their first store, Dixie Cream Donuts, in midtown Kansas City. But after they were forced to close their Dixie Cream shop and their Overland Park tenant left, the Taylors felt pressure to make a move.
“They had an empty space here and they were running short on cash,” the younger John recalled. “So they said, ‘We know the donut business. Let’s open a shop.'”
John and Rodney started pitching in soon after.
“I’ve been working here since I was 15 years old, and I still have my high school job,” John said.
When the younger John took over full-time management of the store from his parents in the mid-1970s, he kept the offerings true to his parents’ menu.
“We’ve added fritters,” John said. “That’s about it.”
The elder John eventually came back to work at the Overland Park shop, and was a familiar face to patrons through the early 1990s. His portrait hangs on the shop’s east wall.
Soon, though, the longest-running donut operation in Overland Park may see a big change. John said he and his wife Brenda are looking to sell John’s Space Age Donuts soon. After decades of a grueling schedule that has him and his son waking around 2:30 a.m. most days, John says he’s ready to hang up his apron and hand the operation to someone else.
“The plan is to sell it,” John said. “Soon is good. But there’s no definite date. We own the building still, so whoever buys it, I want to make sure it’s someone who knows what they’re doing.”