If you don’t live in Wahiawa, there are many old-time and delicious reasons to go, including Dots restaurant, the chocolate pudding pie at Sunnyside Bakery and fresh tofu at Honda Tofu.
But on Saturday, the tofu family business unexpectedly closed after nearly a century.
If you browsed big box stores for tofu, you probably came upon the familiar twin pack, which is sold and made in Wahiawa.
The tofu stop is one of those places you kind of have to know what you’re looking for to find it.
“Our business started in 1917,” said co-owner Dennis Honda. “Our grandfather Eizo and his wife Suyo started the business in Wahiawa on Cane Street.”
The tofu? Naturally it’s good, but the “humbleness” remains, too, as reflected in their prices: $4 for an adult Honda Tofu T-shirt and a $1.80 for firm tofu. You can’t get that at the big box stores.
“When I was a little girl, we used to wait for the tofu man to come,” said co-owner Dulcie Honda. “My father, he used to go door-to-door with a yellow Jeep. He’d beep his horn and we would be running out there with our little bowls, and I think it was 25 cents.”
“Certain houses, they leave their chawan on the porch with the 25 cents in it, so you run up there, put the tofu and sometimes even had candy in the chawan,” added Dennis Honda. “You could trust everyone back then.”
But now after 98 years, Honda Tofu’s kitchen is quiet. The owners said the business had slowed, and before closing, they wanted to make it to a century.
“And recently, my boiler did not pass inspection and the cost, the state told me I had to install a new boiler,” said Dennis. “Unfortunately, the cost of a new boiler was kind of prohibitive, just because we planned to stay open for two more years.”
So they closed, quite suddenly, telling some nearby customers in person Friday, but others, from as far away as the mainland and Japan will see the “closed” sign, thanking their patrons and apologizing “for the haste of our closing.”
But they did leave one request.
“Actually, I want to push for the other tofu companies still in existence, which is Aloha Tofu, Aala Tofu and Mrs. Cheng’s,” said Dennis. “If the public can still support them, buy local, support the local industry, that helps a lot,” said Dennis.
“It matters,” Dulcie added.