It’s like keeping your eyes open while sneezing. Crying while eating ice cream is pretty close to impossible.
“I’m super, super sad,” said a smiling Kristen Yokoyama as she finished her last scoop from Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream & Desserts. The Koko Marina Shopping Center landmark is scheduled to close for the final time Wednesday at 11 p.m.
Several other members of Yokoyama’s family joined her there, the night before she returned to Seattle after winter break from college.
Her dad, Darryl, said they’ve been regulars most of the 20 years since Bubbies opened at Koko Marina (it moved from Kahala Mall). The first Bubbies, near the University of Hawaii, was opened in 1985 by founder Keith Robbins and closed in 2015.
“I’m definitely sad about it,” said Cooper Borge, who is married to Kristen’s sister Ashley. “I always got the chocolate with peanut butter. My first experience with it was in Manoa.”
Winton “Win” Schoneman’s first experience with Bubbies was when the Salt Lake City native bought the Kahala Mall shop as a franchisee in the mid-1980s. The Navy had transferred him to Pearl Harbor in 1981. He stayed in the islands after retiring as a senior chief in nuclear engineering who had been assigned to seven submarines at various times of his career.
At first glance, maintaining nuclear reactors on Navy subs and running an ice cream shop don’t have much in common. But both endeavors involve instilling work ethic and teamwork, and dealing with high turnover.
“One of the reasons I got in (at Bubbies) was that in the service I spent a lot of time teaching young people to be successful,” Schoneman said. “My mission at both was to help young people have a successful first job, teach them how to be great employees the rest of their working lives.”
Before Krystal Kawabata helped develop news scoops as a producer at KHON, she scooped ice cream at Bubbies, working for Schoneman while she was a Kaiser High School and University of Hawaii student.
“Win taught me to be on time and to care about people, everyone who came through the door,” Kawabata said. “When people come to get ice cream, they’re happy, or they’re sad and they want to be happy.
“He taught us how to be a part of a team and care about each other, too. It’s one of best first jobs you could ever have. I’m so bummed it’s closing, I know how much it means to the community.”
Kawabata, now a public information specialist for the state Department of Defense, and other former employees were planning to meet at Bubbies today.
“A couple of them called and said they would like to come back on the last day and help in the store,” Schoneman said.
The Coyne Street shop near UH closed when Robbins sold it to a company from Chicago, which has decided to move manufacturing out of Hawaii, Schoneman said.
“So the change in business processes has resulted in me needing to make some decisions, considering things like the cost of selling ice cream being shipped in from Phoenix,” said Schoneman, who still has eight employees, all part-timers who are high-school students. “We’ve been in Hawaii Kai over 20 years. Did a lot with the schools, fundraisers. We made it through the great recession. We’ve certainly been blessed. … I’ll be 68 in July. It feels like it’s time.”
Any story about ice cream should have a happy ending, right? This one is at least bittersweet.
Bubbies will continue to sell its mochi ice cream and cookie dough treats locally at Foodland, Whole Foods and Safeway, Schoneman said.
“It’s totally a silver lining that you can still get Bubbies at the store,” Kawabata said. “But one of the things about an ice cream shop is you go for the experience. It’s like an end of an era.”