Photo: Kanaka Menehune, Flickr
Japanesse expats Mamoru Matsumoto and his wife Helen dreamed of opening their own business in Hawaii. It was a long, hard journey -- he started out peddling goods on a bicycle while Helen labored as a seamstress -- but it eventually happened. They opened their own grocery, M. Matsumoto Store Inc., in the historic town of Haleiwa in 1951. Following the birth of their three children, the couple decided it was time to expand. They settled on shave ice, which they believed would appeal to the growing number of hotrodders, surfers and hippies invading the North Shore. Their "snow cones" cascading with homemade syrups were instant hits, and the couple become local celebrities. They were living the American dream.
Following Mamoru's death in 1994, his son Stanley and wife Noriko took the reigns. This new guard ditched the groceries for T-shirts and souvenirs (to cater to the growing number of tourists), but kept the shave ice. And business is better than ever. Just ask Roxanne Lloyd, a loyal employee trusted to run the store on a day-to-day basis. We recently caught up with her to talk about shave ice and its many tangents, including David Hasselhoff, sumo wrestlers and the problem with paradise.
Read all about island girl Roxanne Lloyd and her frozen life after the jump.
"I started working here in 2004, when I was in high school. I left the island for college in Oregon, but I couldn't stay away, I guess. It's beautiful here on the North Shore; it's the way people who've never been here picture Hawaii. We're an old-school plantation community that's slowly becoming a tourist town. We're relaxed here. There's just a different vibe. We're away from the cities. There are no high rises. North Shore is straight out of a travel agency brochure; that's why the tourists flock here. I mean besides the surfing.
Our shop is kind of an institution. Lots of people think that a visit to the North Shore isn't complete unless they stop in. We get celebrities coming in all the time: Tom Hanks, Konishiki the sumo star and countless others. David Hasselhoff is such a fan that he actually featured us in an episode of Baywatch Hawaii.
Shave ice isn't too complicated, but I think ours is more complex than what you'll find at the roadside stands. We pile our ice on beans, ice cream or both. If you pick beans, we prepare them by boiling till they soften, then add some sugar. That way, they're sweet and chewy. They go into the cone shaped cup first then the shave ice is piled on top. If you'd rather have ice cream, we use premium vanilla, and the setup is the same. Our adventurous eaters go with the combo: beans on the bottom, ice cream in the middle, and the shave ice on top. Our syrups are mostly homemade, and we use local, fresh ingredients whenever possible.
Our most popular flavors are our combos; You can make your own or pick from our tried and true classics. Personally, I like mixing mango and lilikoi. To come up with combos, there's lots of trail and error. If we notice that lots of customers are putting together flavors on there own, we might come up with a catchy name and put it on the menu as a regular. And as employees, we often get to try swirling together new things to see what we like and what we don't. We just want to keep improving our menu, so everybody's opinion is welcome.
Matsumoto is a good place to work; I get to met people from all over the world, and my office is located in paradise. The heat can be unbearable at times, but no job is perfect. Even paradise has its drawbacks, I guess."