A Business Style Based On Taste

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - April 28, 2005
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“Oh my gosh, this is so good. I’m hooked.”

That’s pretty much the story of anyone who has ever tried any of the cookies or breads made by Kapuakea Products. And that’s exactly what Sharon Toriki said when her longtime friend Betty Jane “B.J.” Uegawa first asked her to try a lemon bar.

Betty Jane ‘BJ’ Uegawa and Sharon Toriki with
some of their Kapuakea Products

Kapuakea Products bakes ginger- pumpkin bread, banana-poi loaf and a double chocolate macadamia nut loaf. The other goodies come in packages of 12 — there are lilikoi lemon-bars, coconut shortbread cookies, Kona coffee fudge brownies, chocolate raspberry drizzles, and the guava raspberry macadamia nut squares.

Little did Toriki, a Sacred Hearts graduate, and Uegawa, a Kamehameha grad, know that they’d eventually buy out the business someday.

The two friends often bought the treats for gifts for their friends and families. When they heard that the owner, Susan “Pua” O’Mahoney, was selling her business after 20 years to retire to the Big Island, they decided buy the operation in December 2003. (Pua’s husband, Ab, still flies in twice a month to teach hula at his studio above the shop.) Pua’s mom’s and grandmother’s recipes continue their legacy under the new owners.

Toriki, who maintains her day job as a training consultant in the restaurant industry, loves to cook but leaves the baking to her daughter, Danelle Dinio, who works as the Kapuakea manager of operations.

“Lilikoi lemon bars and guava raspberry macadamia nut squares are our best sellers,” says Dinio, also a Sacred Hearts grad, who is one of two people running the shop most of the time.

The other person in the shop is Anela Robino, a full-time baker who has been with Kapuakea Products for four years.

To avoid overstocking and to maintain the fresh quality of the baked goods, all orders need to be placed 48 hours in advance. Customers can call the store to see if there are any extra packages of goodies available for pick up, but most of the sweets are preordered. The treats are often used for wedding favors and for graduations. Christmas is the busiest season, and orders start flowing in by Nov. 1. Products are also available at McKinley Car Wash, Koolau Farms, Hungry Lion and at Native Books Na Mea Hawaii.

Uegawa, who also has a job in the transportation industry on Kauai, enjoys coming to Oahu several times a month to see how it’s going.

“People are always happy when they receive the product; it’s very rewarding,” says Uegawa. “It’s like having a party and people writing you to thank you for inviting them, instead of you thanking them for coming.”

Toriki says one of the challenges of running this business is letting people know about the product. To do that, they’ve participated in the Bridal Expo, the Baby Expo and the Made In Hawaii Festival.

“One of the biggest risks we took was advertising on KITV during Merrie Monarch,” Toriki recalls. “We got 30 messages on the Monday after Merrie Monarch — that’s 30 people who didn’t know that we were here. We did a good thing.”

One of the lessons that she stresses is that service is what makes people come back.

“Do above and beyond,” says Toriki. “If service is exceptional, they’ll hopefully come back.”

Kapuakea Products is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays, and it is open Saturdays only in December. The shop is located on 439 Kamani St. near the corner of Ward Avenue and Queen Street. For more information, call 596-7855 or log onto www.kapuakeaproducts.com


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