Hardworking Hawaii: Long-time Maui favorite pushes through amid pandemic

Hardworking Hawaii

KAHULUI, Hawaii (KHON2) — Guri Guri is a sweet treat that’s been popular on the island of Maui for decades.

Gail Saito is co-owner of Tasaka Guri Guri, located in the Maui Mall. The family business’ roots go back so far, Saito isn’t exactly sure when it first started.

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“I think in 1940 is when my grandfather started making Guri Guri,” she explained. “So Guri Guri has been around for like maybe 80 years. The business, the Tasaka business has been like over 100.”

Over the years, the business evolved. The store now sells the popular Guri Guri, which is best described as a cross between ice cream and sherbert.

“My great grandfather came over from Japan, and he came to Maui, and he started,” Saito said. “I guess you would call it a confectionery store.”

Saito explained that the sweet treat was actually first called goodie goodie.

“The story that my father told me was the Japanese people couldn’t pronounce ‘Goodie Goodie,’ so it would come out, ‘Guri Guri,'” Saito said.

The businesses has been located at the Maui Mall for almost 50 years.

Saito has been helping out the family store since she was a kid.

“I would sleep at the store,” she said. “My grandparents worked really hard.”

That hard work is in the family’s genes.

“This one kid asked me, ‘Auntie, Do you live here?’ Because it’s like we’re always here. ‘Auntie, Do you live in the back?’ And we’re like, ‘No, we have a house,'” Saito explained.

When COVID-19 hit the island, Tasaka Guri Guri’s business came to a halt.

“When the pandemic hit it, well we closed for like five months,” Saito said.

Now they are back open, but business is still not back to what it used to be.

“For us, we cannot do any online ordering,” Saito said about one of the hardships of selling a perishable product.

There’s also another issue. With the inter island travel restrictions in place, they made the call to stop selling insulated to-go packs, which used to generate a lot of business.

“People would buy quarts and take it home [to the] neighbor islands, and that was a big part of our sales,” Saito said.

Despite the significant impact on business, Saito said she is hoping they’ll be able to not only serve up Guri Guri, but memories for decades to come.

“It’s not like a memory,” Saito said about her favorite part of the business. “It’s just all these little [things]. People coming up and saying, ‘Oh, I remember when your dad was there. When your grandma was there.’ It’s just, it’s a good feeling when you know that something you made gives them happiness.”

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