POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jul 31, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 6:11 a.m. HST, Aug 3, 2011
On Saturday mornings, Burt Fujii drives a delivery truck from Honolulu to Pearl City, out to Waipio, Mililani and Wahiawa, then to Haleiwa, back around to Ewa, up to Makakilo and around to Nanakuli. It's a route that takes him five hours to complete. For the past 14 years, it's been a manageable task, even though Fujii's full-time job is as an agent at Business Insurance Services on Piikoi Street. When he bought Makiki Bake Shop in August 1997, he took on the role of pop in the old mom-and-pop business, and if that meant he never got a day off, that was OK.
But now his own parents need him, and Fujii has made the difficult choice to close the bake shop.
"Since 2007, I have been a caregiver to my dad and now, my mom," said Fujii, 53. "Both have limited mobility and they rely on me to do some of their everyday chores."
The Makiki Bake Shop on Young Street doesn't have a retail counter. Their products are sold in Don Quijote, Foodland, Longs, Times, Tamura's and Waianae Store. Their signature products are the old-fashioned orange chiffon cakes, jelly rolls and their inimitable Makiki Bake Shop biscuits — moist, buttery rolls the size and shape of hockey pucks that are prized as Oahu omiyage because they pack so well and don't crumble or dent in a suitcase.
"What would be the best scenario is if someone buys the bakery to continue what we've been known for and take it to another level," Fujii said. "Makiki Bake Shop has already established the quality of products produced."
Makiki Bake Shop has three core employees and five part-timers who help out when needed. Sales initially dropped 15 percent during the first part of the recession, but have recovered in recent months. The biggest effect the economy has had on the business has come in the cost of ingredients.
"The cost of goods has risen big time due to shipping costs," Fujii said. "What a 50-pound bag of sugar used to cost, $22.96, now costs $33.34." The bakery had a contract to make cakes for the Pagoda Hotel, but that ended when the hotel was sold to a new owner.
Fujii has devoted himself to the preservation of no-preservatives-added, old-fashioned biscuits. There is really nothing else like them on the market. Toasted and covered with guava jelly with a cup of strong coffee, it's the sort of thing the old-timers ate for breakfast before heading out to a long day in the fields. Dressed up with an egg and hollandaise, the biscuits are refined enough for a linen napkin kind of meal. They even work for making tuna sandwich sliders.
Having to choose between the bakery and family is no choice at all. Fujii has the support of longtime fiancee Faith Kimura, but he's come to the point where his whole life is work and there's no time for, well, life. If he doesn't find an interested buyer, he'll close the bake shop Aug. 31. "It's a really sad aloha," he said.
Lee Cataluna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.