Life is Sweet for a Fourth-Generation Family Business

01-25-12 Tasaka Guri Guri

From left: Sisters Gail Saito and Cindy Tasaka-Ing and their cousin, Kelly Kohatsu

A family business with nearly 100 years of history lives on today in Cindy Tasaka-Ing and her sister, Gail Saito. The two are the owners and operators of Tasaka Guri-Guri, a homegrown snack shop founded by their greatgrandfather Jokichi Tasaka. He created the store’s hallmark guri-guri, a frozen dessert featuring a cross between sherbert and ice cream. Guri-guri is served in scoops of two flavors — strawberry and pineapple. Tasaka’s son, Gunji, perfected his father’s recipe, and his sons, Setsuo and Henry — Cindy and Gail’s dad — kept the recipe secret and continued the thriving business for about 35 years until retiring recently when the operations were officially handed to Henry’s daughters.

Cindy and Gail have one other employee, their cousin, Kelly Kohatsu, and get a lot of help from Henry’s long-time friend, Tony Ishikawa. “It’s a small business, we’re doing okay, why change it?” Cindy Tasaka-Ing said. Aside from the secret family recipe for guri-guri, Cindy and Gail manage Tasaka Guri-Guri just like their great-grandfather, grandfather and father did — no computer, no fax, no copier, no Web site. “Our business comes from word of mouth,” she said. Tasaka Guri-Guri switched from its site at the old Kahului Center nearly 100 years ago to the Maui Mall where they’ve had the shop for about four decades now.

Tasaka-Ing said the store welcomes a range of people from loyal residents who stop by every day for a scoop of guri-guri to visitors from the Mainland and others who want to take a quart or two to the Neighbor Islands. Tasaka-Ing said the shop has been successful in part “because our prices are relatively low.” Two scoops of guri-guri in a cup is priced at $1.20 and rises up to five scoops for $2.85; it can also be bought by the quart. Tasaka-Ing said she and her sister aren’t interested in selling the family recipe and hope that one day, their own children — most of whom are 12 years or younger — will take over the business.


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