I've always been tempted by Home Maid Bakery on Lower Main Street in Wailuku. Over the years, I've popped in for some hot, cream-filled malasadas to take to parties. And, I've also tried their hot meals prepped and ready to go.
But never in my wildest imagination did I know of the size and scope of Home Maid's business. On a visit to the upstairs office last week, I found out that and so much more from its president.
"We're old-fashioned peddlers. We sell to whomever, whatever," says Jeremy Kozuki, whose parents founded the business in 1960 on Market Street. "Our philosophy is, we never say, 'no more.' "
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Front-of-the-house cashiers Juanita Valderama (left) and Janet Fernandez flank Home Maid Bakery’s president, Jeremy Kozuki, whose family founded the company 59 years ago. Call 244-7015.
It all started humbly with Jeremy's dad and mom, Joe and Monica Kozuki. Joe first opened Tasty Crust in the early '40s, baking pies during the war. That's where he started developing recipes.
"My mom is still alive," says Jeremy. "She's 93 and we're starting to plan our 50th anniversary for next year. You can count on less than two hands businesses still around from the 1960s. Takamiya, United Auto Parts, Emura and Gilbert's. Pickings are slim after that."
These days, Jeremy bides his work time between being financial director for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Kahului and the bakery. He's certainly got his hands full when he's upstairs.
"We have a new site on Dairy Road in Kahului. I bought the former Sub Paradise by Kinko's. It's a satellite facility and the new production center for custom submarine sandwiches. We sell to all the convenience stores on Maui."
In fact, about 75 percent of Home Maid's bakery business is not conducted on Lower Main Street.
"Rather, it goes out in our vans. We have deep penetration on Maui. We're in every supermarket. Our breads and some of our pastries are in all convenience stores such as 7-11 and Minit Stops."
The top-selling item is crispy manju, a Japanese sweet rice cake that is either eaten here or given to people as an "omiyagi" gift when you travel to Neighbor Islands.
"We like people to call in orders. But we service walk-ins," he says. "In fact, we are known all over the state as the home of the crispy manju."
Home Maid's manju are filled then baked with a variety of flavors including apple, black bean, coconut, peach, sweet potato, pineapple and lima beans.
"They're all made from scratch mixes. Nothing is out of a bag. All of the formulas were generated by my family."
Some of these recipes have been pleasing Maui for decades. They are block biscuits, anpan donuts, jelly rolls, apple turnovers, and ever popular malasadas. Wedding cakes, too.
"My favorite item is our hot cream-filled malasadas," says Jeremy, who's been eating them since small kid days. "They come out hot from 4 to 10 each evening, and from 5 to 10 each morning."
You may buy the malasadas by the piece or by the dozen. Choose from cream filled or plain with sugar coating.
Behind the cool and air-conditioned front of the house in Wailuku is the main bakery, a whir of activity. Conveyor belts and baking machines rule.
"It's not fully automated like Love's. It's not really a neighborhood store either. I try to automize as much as I can. We're right in the middle in never-never land."
Hot meals are also on the front burner and Home Maid prepares everything from beef curry stew to chicken adobo to mayonnaise baked chicken to roast pork.
"People can come and pick up the main course and rice and go home and open a can of corn and make a salad, and you have a nice family meal at a reasonable price. We have both hot and cold items. Our bentos and hot meals have the biggest growth potential in our business."
But Jeremy is quick to recognize the key to his success are his customers and his longterm employees. "Some have been here decades on the job," he says.
As we all know, the retail market is slow now, so Jeremy is spending his time building up his business.
"We are developing a mail order Web site, and we are planning on buying a malasada wagon to cruise around the island. This is one thing I promised my mother I would do before Christmas."
"I'm very optimistic by nature. I think we may have seen the worst in May," says the financial director and bakery man. "It won't be a U-shaped recovery. But it's just a matter of time before tourism makes a comeback and that's what propels our engine."