Wednesday, November 25, 2015         


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Some food for thought about Hawaii's bakeries

By Bob Sigall


Hostess Twinkies' bankruptcy in the news last week reminded me of a story Jon de Mello told me about Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, who loved Twinkies and struggled with overeating. Jon was his producer and lifelong friend.

On one occasion Israel asked de Mello to bring him some Twinkies when he came over.

"How many?" de Mello asked.

"Oh, 28," Israel replied.

"Twenty-eight!?" de Mello exclaimed.

"Yeah." Israel said.

"How about two?" de Mello would offer.

"OK," Israel said sheepishly.

"I'd bring him four," de Mello said.

Twinkies may be gone, although I hear you can buy them on eBay for a premium. If you can't afford the higher price, Hawaii is blessed with many bakeries, and they have interesting stories. Let's look at a few of them.

OK, here's a question: Which bakery's most popular item means "badly cooked" in Portuguese? Yes, it's malasadas. Leonard's Bakery was founded by Margaret and Frank Leonard Rego Sr. in 1952. His mother, Mary, suggested they sell the Portuguese doughnut. Island radio and TV personality Lucky Luck pitched them in TV commercials.

Leonard's sells more than 15,000 malasadas a day and has sold more than 160 million since 1952.

Leonard's isn't the only Hawaii company to sell thousands of its signature items a day. Liliha Bakery's Coco Puffs were featured on "Hawaii Five-0" more than once. Three two-man crews work around the clock to make 5,000-7,500 Coco Puffs a day to meet demand.

Liliha Bakery's Coco Puff was crafted in the 1960s as a shell of puff pastry with a chocolate pudding-like filling. It was a huge flop. About 1990 a new chief baker, Kame Ikemura, reformulated the Coco Puff and added a dollop of chantilly frosting to the top. This time the Coco Puff was a success.

Liliha Bakery has sold more than 27 million Coco Puffs since 1990. The bakery was founded in 1950 on Liliha Street where the H-1 freeway is today.

Next question: Which bakery on Hawaii island hired a sign-maker who misunderstood the founder's name? The owner decided to keep the sign and changed the store's name.

In this case we're talking about Holy's Bakery in Kapaau, North Kohala. They make some of the best pies in the state.

The bakery was founded by Yoshio Hori in 1930. He asked the painter to make a sign that said "Hori's Bakery. The sign-maker misunderstood, and when Hori returned, the sign said "Holy's Bakery." His daughter, Margaret, said he decided to keep it.

OK, here's another question: Which bakery was named for a French chapel? The answer is St. Germain's Bakery. It was named for a chapel in France and picked because Japa­nese could pronounce the name easily.

St. Germain's was founded in 1948 and now owns 120 stores in Japan, two in Thailand and seven in Hawaii, including Dee-Lite Bakery, which was bought in 1990. Dee-Lite had been founded in 1959 by Herbert and Sue Matsuba.

The next question is about a baker named Naka­mura. He had two leftover ingredients for pies and decided to combine them. He thought it was a mistake, but the customers loved it. What's the bakery's name?

It's Ted's Bakery. Ted Nakamura started the business, famous for its chocolate-haupia pie, in 1987 with his brother Glenn.

Ted‘s is now famous for making the "combination plate" of pies. They make more than 20 different pies and more than 15 cakes.

Last question: Which bakery is Hawaii's oldest? This one was founded in 1851, making it 161 years old! It's Love's Bakery.

It began as Love's Biscuit & Bread Co. on Nuuanu Avenue downtown. Robert Love Sr. from Scotland was its founder.

Love's Bakery is the largest bread distributor in Hawaii. The bakery employs more than 600 people, and it makes 206 varieties of bread, 70 varieties of buns and rolls, and 14 varieties of cake.


Bob Sigall, author of the “Companies We Keep” books, looks through his collection of old photos to tell stories each Friday of Hawaii people, places and companies. Email him at

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