Steve and Irene Heiman billed Friday’s opening of their North Fourth Avenue doughnut shop as a “soft opening,” and not just because Irene’s Holy Donuts look soft and chewy, with decadent cream filling spilling out the sides.

Steve Heiman said he and his wife were downplaying their fist day because they half expected they would quickly sell out of doughnuts, and they didn’t want to feel badly when they had to turn folks away.

Sure enough, after 3½ hours, the racks of their tidy little shop at 340 N. Fourth Ave. in the former home of Can’s Deli were empty. Nearly 500 doughnuts, from simple glazed — $1.25 — to filled with cream whipped so fluffy it bursts from the seams ($3) — had been sold and every crumb and hint of a doughnut was gone.

“I feel awful. Everyone’s coming in to get doughnuts and they’re all gone,” he said as 4-year-old Allison Roberts arrived at his doorstep with her mother, Andrea, and uncle Wade Schafer just after 2 p.m.

The little girl appeared to shed a tear as her mom explained the sign on the door of the aqua blue storefront: “Sold out.”

Heiman watched the sad scene unfold as he stood in the dining room. Then he went to the door, which was cracked open with a deadlock, and opened it all the way to explain, as he had a couple dozen times early Friday afternoon, that they had no more doughnuts and how sorry he was. Then he returned inside and scratched out a makeshift coupon good for two free doughnuts and handed it to the girl.

Friday’s soft opening came two weeks after the couple, who retired here last year from Hawaii, had hoped to open. The Tucson store is their second; their original Irene’s is in Hawaii, where Irene Heiman’s doughnut creations that incorporate cereal and cream fillings, savory bacon bits, candy and a taste from the couple’s native Hawaii continue to be very popular with island residents, Heiman said.

In fact, the most popular doughnut of the nearly 20 varieties his wife made for Friday’s opening was the pineapple macadamia nut fritter. The jumbo cinnamon roll ($4.25) that nearly fills a standard cake box was also popular.

Heiman said he expects that within hours of opening again at 7 a.m. Saturday, March 30, they will have to resurrect that “Sold out” sign. It could take a few weeks to fully train the staff on making the doughnuts — “there’s a lot of work that goes into those doughnuts,” he says — to keep the racks full throughout the day and into the night. Once they find their rhythm, Irene’s Holy Donuts will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and from 7 a.m. to midnight or 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch

Cathalena has covered music for the Star for the past 20 years. She's a graduate of Arizona State University has worked at Sedona Red Rock News, Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, New York; and USA Today.