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Customers bid goodbye to Kaimuki cafe

Wednesday is the last day of operation for Cafe Laufer, Kaimuki’s popular European bakery and restaurant.

Lines had formed at the 22-year-old cafe’s front and back doors before opening at 10 a.m. today, as customers tried to get in for their last taste of gourmet sandwiches, fancy layer cakes and fruit tarts.

Lease issues were cited as the reason for the closure, announced just last week.

Mary Marko of Palolo said she’d been coming to the cafe, at 3565 Waialae Ave., twice weekly for at least 10 years, and almost every morning when her mother was alive. After her mother’s passing, the cafe became “like a second home, and like my second family.”

She didn’t even have to tell servers her order, she said, they always knew what she wanted. The chefs would even set aside a Thanksgiving dinner for her to pick up each year before they closed for the holiday.

She and other regulars said they don’t know where else to go for the same kind of ambience and friendliness. “I’m lost,” Marko said.

The restaurant has been flooded with customers since Thursday’s announcement of the closure.

A day later, employees closed for a few midday hours because they sold out of prepared food and the chef, Melvin Avecilla, had been called away.

Avecilla, a fixture at the cafe for 17 years, was going to take over the business from owner and pastry chef Cyrus Goo, but an agreement could not be worked out.

Goo could not be reached for comment about the closing of the shop that he and Marlie von Laufer, a German native, opened in December 1995.

Ann Asakura, retired owner of Ala Moana Produce, a longtime supplier of the restaurant, has been a regular customer since the beginning. She saw it evolve from a very European coffee shop specializing in cakes into a more well-rounded lunch and dinner spot.

“They made a really mean meatloaf,” Asakura said.

The cafe especially outdid itself for Octoberfest, she said, with German specialties such as sausage, fresh spaetzle (pasta) and red cabbage.

The Kaimuki neighborhood is experiencing a “double whammy,” as also just lost the nearby JJ Bistro & Pastry, she said.

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