Number One came at 4:35 p.m., propping a portable blue camping chair by the entrance and settling in to wait through the afternoon. Number Two came a half-hour later, with a book and a mini-chess set.
By nighttime Monday, a shantytown of sleeping bags, air mattresses and caffeinated strangers had formed an impromptu community, referring to each other by their places in line and bonding in their determination to be among the first to witness yesterday's opening of the District's first Krispy Kreme store, in Dupont Circle.
Things didn't unfold exactly as they had expected, what with the certificate of occupancy problem that meant a delayed opening and early batches of cold doughnuts that came by truck and a store that didn't do its own baking. But after a sleepless night, those among the first in line didn't seem to mind.
There were Scott Marchand, 33, and his cousin Vincent Brinly, 35, known to their new friends in line as Six and Seven, Louisville natives who grew up with the doughnuts and came to the store sporting their Krispy Kreme T-shirts. For being among first 24 customers, they won a dozen free doughnuts each month for a year.
There was Number Eight, Avram Polinsky, 24, who was already plotting for the opening of a Chick-fil-A in Silver Spring later this week, where the first 100 customers get 52 coupons for combo meals. "It's just a good week," he said.
And there was Number One, Rami Genauer, a twentysomething writer -- he would not specify his age -- from Foggy Bottom who spent 13 hours -- "a baker's dozen" -- in his chair, earning himself the title of the store's first customer, and a dozen free doughnuts a week for the next year.
Genauer said he doesn't really like doughnuts and won't eat the ones the Dupont Circle store sells -- he keeps Kosher, and the store's doughnuts are not certified. "Everybody gets 15 minutes, and I didn't have to be on a reality show," he said, explaining his night waiting for a food prize he wouldn't eat.
He plans to give the doughnuts to the homeless, he said as the pre-dawn crowd grew around him.
It was Krispy Kreme Day in Washington, Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) declared a few hours later, before cutting a red ribbon as the neon "hot" light flashed red to signify the official opening at 1350 Connecticut Ave. and the presence of freshly glazed doughnuts.
The opening, a ritual that has taken place across the country as the North Carolina-based chain has grown, brought throngs of fanatics and intrigued passersby, and they waited in lines that stretched twice around the outside of the triangular store for free samples.
Workers distributed about 150 dozen -- that's 1,800 -- doughnuts by sunrise, said Becky Shell, the company's manger of new store openings and marketing. The store was expected to sell or give away 24,000 doughnuts yesterday.
Though Krispy Kreme's cultlike status seemed intact yesterday, the company has struggled publicly in recent months. The Securities and Exchange Commission is conducting an informal investigation over the company's repurchasing of its franchises and a recent quarterly loss, which executives blamed on the low-carb diet craze.
Other glitches stalled yesterday's opening. Though the store was to open at 5:30 a.m., that was delayed until 10 a.m. because it had not received a certificate of occupancy from the city. Instead, employees handed out free doughnuts, and coupons for more, to line-standers and those walking by.
Number Two, Jeremy Good, 32, ate the first doughnut about 5:45 a.m., after Genauer declined it. He had come Monday afternoon after learning about the promotion from a computer alert programmed to notify him of free food in Washington.
The first doughnuts delighted those who waited -- many gave an ovation as the early batches were unloaded from a truck. But others were disappointed that the pre-dawn free doughnuts were not hot and were not baked on the premises -- a hallmark of Krispy Kreme stores. Although the doughnuts are available in boxes in supermarkets, Krispy Kremes are to be eaten only while hot, Krispy Kreme aficionados say. Most stores bake their own; the Dupont Circle store is part of a new concept of hot-glazing already-baked doughnuts.
That was among the chief complaints of Zac Corker, 22, who nibbled on his free doughnut about 6 a.m. He had arrived about 4:30 a.m., hoping to give his sister, Jamaica, 25, her first taste of Krispy Kreme. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea for the past two years, she had only heard legends.
"This was going to be the ultimate first Krispy Kreme," Jamaica said, shrugging off yet another offer of a cold doughnut. "It didn't live up to the hype."
After the pre-dawn crowd had been fed, the area around the store cleared briefly, before the next crowd: the commuters.
With the store not opening until 10 a.m., some took coupons and free doughnuts in good humor. But others, particularly those who had promised to bring treats for coworkers, were visibly unhappy.
One, Jane Gilmore, seemed startled. It was 7:55, and co-workers had asked her to bring doughnuts because she lives in the neighborhood. "I'm [mad] they're opening at 10," she said, after slamming the free doughnut coupon onto a newspaper box in anger. "Everyone's at work at 10."
A few minutes later, she returned, smiling. Someone had explained the delay was caused by construction, she said, though the actual cause was city paperwork for the certificate of occupancy.
"And they gave me a dozen free," she said, flashing her coupon.
The doughnuts sold at the Dupont Circle store are actually made in Alexandria, although the glaze is applied on location so the doughnuts are served hot. Three neon signs that read "Hot Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Now" in windows facing Connecticut Avenue, 19th Street and Dupont Circle are turned on to signify that fresh doughnuts are for sale.
But once the store opened, the only thing visible from the street were the lines.
Tony Martin, 24, stuck his head against the window, making his "puppy dog face" at workers inside. No dice. He waited for nearly a half-hour before making his way into the store about 11 a.m. He was supposed to be at work, he said, but no matter. The red light -- "it's a beacon; it calls for me," he said.
As he stood in line, Martin pondered what could make so many people spend their nights and mornings waiting for doughnuts.
"I didn't think it would be this crazy," he said. "I thought I was the one lone nut."