Sunday, September 9, 2001

Henry Tasaka and his friend Tony Ishikawa serve
Guri-Guri sherbet to Manoa resident Wesley Tanoue.
Tanoue, who was raised on the Valley Isle, was
visiting with his son Seth.

some Guri-Guri

The Tasaka family's legendary
sherbet keeps happy victims
in its addictive grasp

By Rod Antone

As far as Cindy Tasaka-Ing knows, no one in her family has the recipe to her great-grandfather's legendary sherbet written down.

"I know how (to make it), my uncle knows too," Cindy said. "It's just a recipe for ice cream."

Customers of the Tasaka Guri-Guri Shop would beg to differ. Generations of Mauians have been addicted to the homemade sherbet ever since their first taste after school one day.

Guri-Guri is a tough habit to break. Those weaned on it say they go through withdrawal if they can't eat it once in a while.

"I still bring some back to Washington (state)," said former Paia resident Ted Acpal Jr., who added that he would rather be eating the cool sherbet on a hot Maui day. "We only get three days of summer here but it's still good."

The recipe has been in the Tasaka family for four generations.

"My father was born in 1901 and he started helping my grandfather when he was 15 or 16," so the recipe goes back at least to 1920, said Cindy's father, 66-year-old Henry Tasaka.

Tasaka said his grandfather Jokichi invented Guri-Guri, and that it was something he "just made up" one day. The Guri-Guri name comes from the phrase "goodie-goodie", which is what the family originally called its frozen creation during Maui's plantation days.

Somehow the customers, mostly local plantation workers, pronounced the sherbet as "Guri-Guri" and the name stuck.

"My grandfather sold to all the camp kids, neighbors, community," said Henry Tasaka. "Everybody bought."

Everyone still buys, although some customers recall a time when all they had to do was get their hair cut.

"The barber shop next to us used to hand out these coupons, see," said Tasaka. "Get one haircut and get free two scoops Guri Guri."

"Free Guri-Guri whenever we cut hair at Oni's Barber Shop," remembers Kahului resident Dwight Parilla. "I wanted to cut my hair every week."

Back then, no coupon meant shelling out a nickel for two scoops of either strawberry or pineapple. Decades later the choices remain the same, although the price has gone up a bit.

"It's a dollar now for two scoops," said Tasaka, sounding almost ashamed about the price. Then he remembers, "Rent was so cheap back then."

What will never be cheap or bought or disclosed to anyone who is not a Tasaka family member is their recipe for Guri-Guri. All the family will say is that most of the ingredients can be found at the nearest supermarket.

Cindy says the rest of the ingredients are "from somewhere else." She later adds: "And it's not from Japan."

If the Tasakas decide to close up their Maui Mall shop, then the Guri-Guri gurus plan to take their recipe with them.

"What we decided on is that if the family doesn't want to do it any more we'll just stop," Cindy said. "My dad says grandpa probably wouldn't want anybody else to do it."

It is easier that way. No worries that someone will try to change the recipe or try to take the shop away from its Maui roots. Not that the idea hasn't been pitched to the Tasakas.

"Naw, we like the Maui lifestyle," said Tasaka, who believes that Honolulu will demand late-night sherbet. "On Oahu we probably have to go home 9 or 10 o'clock. Here we go home by 7 o'clock."

But even that schedule will not last forever. The Tasaka Guri-Guri store depends on each generation to generate workers and Cindy points out that her generation consists of herself and her sister, Gail.

"My uncle doesn't have any children. I have an 11-month-old daughter and my sister's son is 12 and doesn't seem interested in the business," she said. "Everybody is like, 'You have to take over, you have to take over.'"

Still, the store will not close anytime soon. The Tasakas just renewed their five-year lease with the Maui Mall.

The question is: How many more five-year leases are they willing to sign?

"Maybe five, 10, 15 more years. Who knows?" Cindy said.

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