After 101 years, a small plantation-era bake shop is closing its doors for good.
Ishiharaya — famous for its tea and fortune cookies — announced its store in Waipahu will shut down on Nov. 13.
But it will continue baking limited products for retailers until the end of the year.
A letter written by Ira Ishihara, a third-generation operator, said his family’s been quote “very fortunate and blessed to be in business all these years.”
Lifelong Waipahu resident Julie Kojima says she’s been buying cookies from the bake shop for as long as she can remember.
She was stocking up today on different flavors — she often gives away as gifts.
“When people come from the mainland or we go somewhere I tell them it’s from my hometown.” she said. “I’m so sad. I can’t believe it cause it’s always been here. With everything closing down I feel like it’s erasing part of your childhood.”
Seventy-two-year-old Norman Tochiki says he’s been a loyal customer since the 1950s.
He says his grandparents from Japan lived on the Waipahu sugar plantation and raised their family there. He still remembers what the business was like when he was a child.
“I saw this old man — probably was the first generation — he was actually sitting there squatted and he was dropping the senbei batter. Then the wife used to bag um up,” he said. “You could get a penny or two worth. You just ask them ‘oh I have only two cents’ and they would give you whatever for the two cents.”
Tochiki said he’s watched with sadness the closure of many old-time businesses.
“Pretty sad because it’s like another ma and pa store closing and their senbei is one of the best,” he added. “Today everything is big box, you know buy in bulk. It’s not the same.”
Since hearing news of the closure, he says he’s already bought about 20 bags of senbei, or Japanese crackers.
Business owners declined an interview, but a relative told KITV the family decided after more than a century, they had a good run.
Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, said at least 13,000 businesses closed during the pandemic.
“When we see institutions closing such as Ishiharaya, it just goes to show, COVID has just accelerated the closures of these types of businesses that have been around for so long,” she said.
But at least for a couple months more, longtime customers will be able to get a taste of their favorite childhood cookies … and reminisce about the good-old days.