Via Gelato Hawaii owner Melissa Bow announced her Ward location will close next month due to the high cost of rent and told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser she plans to file for bankruptcy.
The handmade gelato shop announced the Ward Village store’s closure on Instagram Friday and assured followers they can still get their gelato fix at Via’s original location in Kaimuki, which opened in 2014.
“I would like to (keep the Kaimuki location open),” Bow said, adding that filing for bankruptcy might help save the original location.
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Why? Why is a good business, with a strong following, great customer service, rated 4.5 stars or higher, why are we going out of business? The answer is our rent at Via Ward is so expensive we cannot even break even using ALL of our profits at Via Kaimuki to pay for it. I personally work 100+ a week and haven't been paid more than $4 an hour for the past two years, living below the poverty line. I have spent all my life savings building the Via Ward store and paying it's rent. We were told that a rent reduction would be considered for four months, meanwhile racking up debts to $60,000 in rent to Ward we simply cannot afford to pay only to be told there will be no rent reduction. Small Hawaii local business vs billion dollar mainland landlord. Why does a mainland company that makes $57 million in income every year need *all* the profits of a tiny local business in Hawaii? Why should local people be expected to pay $10 for a cone so that we can break even just to pay this landlord? Defend your local small business Come back to Kaimuki Write to Ward Village and let them know what you think Share this story Repost this post Tag a friend who thinks local people deserve better than this #supportsmallbusiness #supportlocal #madeinhawaii #hawaii @yelphawaii @frolichawaii @civilbeat @staradvertiser @hawaiisbestkitchens @punahouschool @sustainablecoastlineshawaii @honolulumag @honolulufamily @mori_hawaii @asatofamily @manaai @leeannewong #hawaiilocaleats #hawaiiartisan #hawaiidesserts @keepitkaimuki
Bow, 39, opened the Ward Village shop in November 2017. She said she struggled to break even running the business, which resulted in her taking out loans and using profits from the Kaimuki shop to help pay $11,000 in monthly rent at the Ward location near Hakubundo and Agu Ramen.
“I personally work 100-plus (hours) a week and haven’t been paid more than $4 an hour for the past two years, living below the poverty line,” Bow wrote in a post on Via Gelato’s Instagram that garnered over 1,900 likes by Saturday afternoon. “I have spent all my life savings building the Via Ward store and paying it’s rent.”
Bow said Ward Village considered offering her a rent reduction for four months, but the assistance did not surface. Bow has a 4 1/2-year lease.
Ward Village spokeswoman Andrea Galvin said in an email that the growing retail business at the location continues to provide a great experience to visitors.
“Local small businesses are important to us, and we truly want every one of them to succeed,” Galvin said. “We are upfront and transparent in the terms of our leases, and while not every business succeeds, the many who have provide a one of a kind retail destination.”
Instagram users flooded Via Gelato’s feed with messages of support.
“I’m heartbroken myself that I’ve lost everything that I’ve ever saved in my entire life; I don’t want to see them lose their community spot,” Bow said.
The shop serves 14 flavors each day inspired by local tastes such as black sesame, peanut butter oreo, and milk tea. Gelato is served in a variety of sizes costing between $3.80 and $8.
The exact date of the Ward location closure has yet to be determined.
“We want to be able to vacate the space by the end of May, at the latest,” Bow said. “We will need to stop serving gelato before then.”
Bow encouraged customers to support Hawaii-owned businesses.
“We live here and we need to protect our local businesses,” she said.