Tucked in the back corner of Kona Marketplace on Aliʻi Drive is a hidden gem of culinary confections.
Holy Donuts, opened in May 2015 by Irene Heiman and her husband, Stephen, has become the donut stop in Kailua-Kona. Its hidden location hasn’t stopped locals and visitors from seeking out these gourmet glazed cakes.
A devout Christian, Heiman feels like she was called to open the shop as a way to give back to the community. In addition to selling her donuts, she also bakes a few extra dozen every day to give out to the less fortunate.
“Throughout the week, the homeless know that if theyʻre hungry they can come to the shop,” said Heiman. “I always make about 60 to 80 extra donuts for them.”
According to the Smithsonian, donuts were introduced to the US by Dutch settlers. They made their debut in New Amsterdam (now known as Manhattan) as “olykoeks,” or oily cakes. The name eventually became “oliebollen,” or oily balls, because of their round shape.
Oily balls apparently didnʻt sound very appetizing to the American palate, and thus the name gradually changed to “doughnut,” then to the more abbreviated “donut.”
Donuts have evolved significantly since their introduction. Heiman talked about choosing the flavors of her donuts through hours of research.
“I went online and started searching all the No. 1 donut shops in the United States,” she said. “I looked up every magazine about the No. 1 donuts. Then I said to myself, why couldnʻt I gather up ideas from all the No. 1 donut joints, and all the No. 1 donuts and bring them all into one spot. Thatʻs how it came together—taking all these different peopleʻs ideas that were really big sellers and making them all in the same location.”
Heiman also accepts suggestions for new flavors—some of which end up on the regular menu.
“I have people come in and ask me if I could make this flavor donut or that flavor donut, and I say of course,” said Heiman. “Let me make it and if it turns out good, Iʻll call you to come pick it up. Then Iʻll post it on Instagram and if people really like it, Iʻll add it to the menu. A lot of the donuts Iʻve made have been for different customers who have come in with great ideas.”
The donut display case is a feast for the eyes, and the flavors are diverse and delicious. From dragonfruit to fruit loops, from sʻmores to maple bacon, the choices are endless.
Heimanʻs passion for helping those in need is somewhat serendipitous; during the Depression, donuts were considered “everyman food.” In fact, when immigrants arrived in the US at Ellis Island, members of the Salvation Army greeted them with a donut and a warm blanket. The treats were served on a paper that said, “As you go through life, make this your goal: Watch the doughnut, not the hole.”
“There are so many people in our community that donʻt have anybody or anything,” said Heiman. “It only takes an hour a week to help people—to show some humanity and make them feel like theyʻre cared about.”
Holy Donuts is located at 75-5729 Aliʻi Drive in Kona. Hours are Tuesday–Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to midafternoon, or until the donuts run out. The kiosk location in Lanihau Shopping Center is open Tuesday–Friday, 6:30 a.m. to midafternoon, and Saturday and Sunday, 7:30 to midafternoon.