When a local St. Louisan wandered into his newly-purchased World’s Fair Donuts, a staple for old-school donut joints in St. Louis, and ordered a Fat Steve, Jason Bockman knew his hard work and dreams had become something special. Because you see, anywhere else you’d order a chocolate long john, but at Strange Donuts, they’re known as a Fat Steve.
Hard work and some luck have amassed a rapidly-growing donut empire here in the Lou (Bockman is the owner of Strange Donuts and now World’s Fair Donuts), but it hasn’t always been the stuff of dreams. Bockman had a rough start in life and spent his youth in and out of group homes as custody of the state. He was caught up in a harmful and dangerous lifestyle, not only for himself but for anyone in his path. Guns, drugs, violence, you name it, and Bockman has lived it. He was arrested for the first time at age 11, and first tried as an adult at age 14. He got caught up with an adult crowd at a young age and couldn’t find an escape
It wasn’t until Bockman was in his late teens that he met an older man who shared his life with Bockman and walked alongside him. He offered him friendship and support and didn’t criticize him for his life choices or tell him he needed to change. As Bockman observed this man wanting to relate to him, it dawned on him there might be something better for him in this life. He realized he wasn’t happy with what he was doing and hadn’t been happy in years and decided to turn his life around.
It wasn’t too much longer after that he purchased a hot dog business, went back to school, and met the beautiful Venezuelan woman, Yurimar, who would become his wife. They met for the first time when he was having breakfast at First Watch. Their respective groups struck up a conversation, and Jason led on that he had concert tickets to see Pharrell Williams that night. Her cousin wanted to go, so Yurimar agreed. They hit it off, and the rest is history. Well, mostly.
Jason and Yurimar haven’t been spared the difficulty and heartache of the immigration system. They’ve been separated, agonized over how to be together, and made sacrifices to bring Yurimar’s family to the US with her permanent resident status (she has since become a US citizen). They were married in the courthouse because her family couldn’t be there for the occasion, but it’s one that will remain in Jason’s memory always.
Today they have two children: Blade (5) and Bennie (3), and if you count Jason’s third child, Donovan, (whom Jason started working with through being on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters) nine years ago, it doesn’t take long to see the heart Jason has for his children. He said he always wanted a big family, and in so many ways, he’s living out the wish he’d had for a happy and healthy childhood.
The best part of fatherhood for Bockman? Seeing his children understand things he’s worked hard to instill in them. The worst part? That one day in quarantine when he found them in the bathroom and paint was EVERYWHERE. He bit down so hard in anger that he broke a tooth. Who hasn’t been there, right??
Jason is motivated by his desire to give his children the things he never had access to growing up. He aims to provide an environment for his kids to experience all of their emotions and feel safe, feeling the things he couldn’t.
Big things are coming for Strange Donuts, but he can’t tell us just yet! Stay tuned and keep supporting Strange Donuts and Jason by eating those delicious “dones.”
Jason Bockman, 38, is the owner of Strange Donuts and World’s Fair Donuts. A husband, father, and successful entrepreneur, Jason is a St. Louis native with a heart for this city as exhibited by his involvement across the region, specifically on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters.