Heart of Honolulu: A Kaimukī Bakery Owner Helps Her Favorite Poke Spot
In addition to donating dozens of malassadas to health care workers, Gayla Young of Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery recently sold 125 poke bowls from Kyung’s Seafood to help the owner ramp up business.
Heart of Honolulu is a collection of stories that feature locals performing small acts of kindness and generosity in their communities.
Photos: Gayla Young
About twice a week, Gayla Young would stop at Kyung’s Seafood in Makiki to grab a pound of spicy ʻahi—her usual.
But after the spread of COVID-19 triggered a statewide shutdown, many restaurants, including Kyung’s, struggled to stay open with takeout or delivery service only. Young, who runs Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery in Kaimukī and had to pivot her business to online ordering and curbside pickup, was worried about her favorite hole-in-the-wall.
“It was dead in there. Dead dead,” Young says. “I felt so badly for [the owner]. This is what I feel like Hawaiʻi is made up of, these little mom-and-pop shops that really make Hawaiʻi Hawaiʻi.”
So she decided to help.
Young approached owner Kyung Cha with an idea: She would use her social media channels—the bakery has more than 20,000 loyal followers on Instagram alone—to sell Kyung’s poke bowls that Friday. All Cha had to do was make them.
“I thought she was joking,” Cha says. “I don’t do online, I don’t do computer, I don’t do texting, I don’t do that kine. Me, nothing. Wednesday she walk in, I say, ʻOK.’ I appreciate her help.”
Young’s bakery had been faring pretty well despite the shutdown. Before Fat Tuesday in March—known as Malassada Day in Hawaiʻi—she had set up an online ordering platform to handle the onslaught of requests for malassadas that day. A couple of weeks later, when restaurants were limited to providing either takeout or delivery service—or close—she already had her online ordering system in place and just added other bakery items, including pints of her house-made ice cream.
“We were able to switch over very quickly,” says Young, who has also donated dozens of malassadas to Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women & Children. “We were just really fortunate in that regard. But with my neighbors in Kaimukī, it’s been really sad. I see some of them close or they’re not as busy as they were before. It’s just really hard to see that happen. We wanted to do something to help.”
On April 1 Young advertised via Instagram that her bakery would be taking preorders for three different kinds of poke bowls—$10.95 each—from Kyung’s Seafood. By 7 p.m. the next day—the cutoff time—Young had sold 125 bowls.
“She was overwhelmed,” Young says.
That Friday, Young, who ended up helping Cha add kim chee to the bowls and pack them up, handed out the bowls at her Kaimukī shop. All of the money—more than $1,600—went directly to Cha. Young didn’t take a cut.
“We had no idea if this was going to work,” Young says. “It was just a last-minute idea to support her—and it was really successful.”
Cha has noticed more people popping into her shop on King Street since then, many having gotten their first taste of her super-fresh poke through—of all places—a bakery.
“In the beginning, I had a hard time, but after that, it’s getting better,” Cha says. “I’m very happy for that. I appreciate her.”
Read more stories by Catherine Toth Fox on Honolulumagazine.com and Hawaiimagazine.com