Sunday, May 1, 2005

Maui Soda Co. has been in Nobriga family hands since the early 1990s.

Maui biz
keeps its fizz

The Nobriga clan has been keeping
soda customers happy for generations

WAILUKU » Manuel Nobriga used to set aside crates of soft drinks for local businesses every morning during World War II before opening Maui Soda & Ice Works Ltd. to the military, which bought almost all of the supplies.


"We took care of our old customers so they could have something to sell," said his son David "Buddy" Nobriga, 78. "Those people never forgot us ... We give the best service we can. Normally, it works out."

Things have worked out for Nobriga, the paternal head and board chairman of the family-owned Maui Soda, which bottles Coca-Cola and other soft drinks along with manufacturing Roselani Ice Cream.

There has been a Nobriga working for Maui Soda for more than 83 years.

The prominence of Nobriga and his family on the Valley Isle is based on hard work not only in business, but also in the community.

"He's an individual of tremendous integrity," former Maui Mayor Elmer Cravalho said. "If Buddy Nobriga gives you his word, it is solid."

Nobriga has served as a volunteer for numerous nonprofit and government entities, including a 20-year tenure on the county water board, helping to construct the first waterline from Wailuku to South Maui to develop areas such as Kihei, Wailea and Makena.

Nobriga also was a volunteer chairman of a soil conservation district for decades, aiding in the construction of multimillion-dollar flood-control projects in West Maui.

Nobriga said his approach to community service and his job is the same -- persistent hard work, patience and an eye for opportunity.

His great-grandfather Manuel Joaquin de Nobriga saw opportunity when, at age 36, he along with his family migrated from Madeira, Portugal, to work in the sugarcane fields on Maui in 1886.

The Nobrigas were a part of a wave of Portuguese immigration to Hawaii that eventually brought close to 12,000 people from Madeira, Sao Miguel, and the Azores by 1888, according to Library of Congress records.

The British steamship Amana, carrying 501 passengers, took 147 days, during which four infants died and there were 10 births, according to the ship's surgeon.

The ship officers reported that heavy weather around South America's Cape Horn with gale winds and mountainous seas forced the passengers to remain below deck for two months.

Three generations of David "Buddy" Nobriga's family and relatives gathered for this photograph in the conference room at Maui Soda & Ice Works Ltd. in Wailuku. They include (top row, from left) his daughter, Cathy Kim, her son Michael, Buddy himself, his son David, Buddy's brother-in-law William Carvalho, Buddy's son David, and David's son Buddy; (middle row) Buddy's grandsons, Ricky and Ethan Kim and Joshua Nobriga, his sister Patricia, and wife Barbara; (bottom row) Buddy's granddaughters, Kaitlin Kim and Jaelynn and Charleene Nobriga. Not pictured is Buddy's fourth son, Robert.

Manuel Joaquin de Nobriga began work in the sugarcane fields in central Maui and his son Antone, who was 10 when they moved from Portugal, later became a sugarcane overseer in the Waihee area.

Antone's son Manuel attended the University of Hawaii for a year with the idea of becoming a teacher, but soon gave it up and returned home to work for Maui Soda in 1922, where he began delivering ice to homes by a horse-drawn wagon.

He slowly rose to the position of manager in 1938 and held it until 1971, when his son Buddy succeeded him.

Buddy Nobriga started Roselani Ice Cream in 1972.

The Nobriga family began acquiring stock in the company until they gained control of it in the early 1990s.

The Nobrigas and a few relatives also operate the Nobriga Ranch in Kahakuloa.

Buddy Nobriga said his father, Manuel, was not the outgoing type but believed in helping the community and frequently gave out Maui Soda products as promotional and fund-raising items to various nonprofit groups, such as the 4-H Club.

Nobriga himself has served as a Kiwanis Club of Maui official, at one point persuading Harold "Oskie" Rice to donate land in Kula to the club.

The club in turn donated the land to the county to create the Harold C. Rice County Park whose parking lot serves as a popular public overlook into the central valley.

Nobriga said it gives him pride and satisfaction to see his family and relatives working at Maui Soda & Ice, which employs about 76 people.

All five of his children work for the company. Robert Nobriga works as freight manager, James as distribution manager, David as fleet manager, Cathy as vice president of production in charge of Roselani Ice Cream, and Michael as manager.

His nephew Billy Carvalho works as director of special events, and another relative, Eldon Mattos, as the quality assurance and safety director.

Michael Nobriga, who has served on the county water board and also as a president in the Maui Chamber of Commerce, said he's learned a lot from his father, who has encouraged his children to be active in the community.

"I really respect him. He's a really good teacher," Michael Nobriga said.

Buddy Nobriga, who retired as Maui Soda manager in 1999, said he still keeps busy.

He makes occasional visits to Honolulu to serve as chairman of the Federal Land Bank Association.

Just this week, he helped friends in branding about 400 calves in Kaupo.

Nobriga said during round-up, he sometimes needs to climb on a fence to get on the horse. "But once I'm on I can ride," he said.

Roselani Ice Cream

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