HANAPEPE — When Helen Lacono closes the doors of Hanapepe Cafe and Bakery today, it’ll be for the last time.
“It’s time,” said Lacono, the owner of the popular Westside eatery that has won the hearts — and taste buds — of a legion of locals and visitors in the almost 10 years it has been open.
“I agreed to stay until after the Orchid Festival and I already have my plane ticket, so I think it’s time,” she said.
Lacono was also a familiar face at The Gourmet Market at The Shops at Kukui‘ula. She said after she takes care of a medical issue and spends some time with her grandchildren, she’ll be back with more soup at the popular Wednesday market on the South Shore.
“We had our last soup serving Wednesday, and it was a sell-out,” she said. “The power went out and as people started scrambling out of the restaurants, they all came and had soup.”
Friday, as the doors to the Garden Island Orchid Society opened, Lacono was putting finishing touches to her dinner menu for the last time.
“We’re looking for someone who’ll have a restaurant who can offer good food for the people of the Westside,” Lacono said. “We’ve been lucky and blessed to have a great family here at Hanapepe Cafe and Bakery since 2003 when we took over from the Hanapepe Bookstore.”
Lacono has been the central guiding figure of that ‘ohana, getting help from her daughter, Andrea Kaohi, who has been at Lacono’s side from the opening.
Mary Sanderson and Annie Lazaro, both key people for the past three years, and Gail Little, described by Kaohi as the person doing everything behind the scenes, are all part of the strength which has continued to draw customers.
“My granddaughter Ku‘ulei Breen has been phenomenal as the baker,” Lacono said. “She would be here today, but is a senior at Waimea High School.”
Lacono said Breen plans on enrolling in the culinary arts program at the Kaua‘i Community College following her graduation in May to continue the work she started when she enrolled in the Waimea High School Culinary Arts Academy.
Breen’s work in the culinary arts field has her on a modified school schedule where she spends two days a week in the bakery at Hanapepe Cafe, turning out delights such as the Hawaiian Chocolate Cake.
“It’s decadent,” Lacono said. “Basically, it’s a German Chocolate Cake done Hawaiian style.”
Lacono said after the doors close she wants good things to happen to her ‘ohana, with daughter Andrea already saying she is going to use the time to raise her four daughters and devote some time to the Hawaiian Congregational Church, across the street from Hanapepe Cafe.
Lazaro said she is not looking beyond spending time raising her family.
“I really want to further my artistic studies,” Sanderson said, noting she is hopeful to be able to work at Island Art Gallery, also located in Hanapepe, and hoping for something at Small Fish Coffee. “I just spoke with them today and hopefully, everything will work out.”
Kaohi said right now, the most important thing is for Lacono to take care of her medical needs.
“It’s only going to be for a couple of months,” Kaohi said. “She’ll be back and the shoppers at Kukui‘ula will get their soup back.”