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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 4, 2008

Boiled peanut and mochi shop is closing

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Eva Ikeda, owner of The Peanut Shop and Moiliili Mochi & Candies, bags boiled peanuts. Eva and husband Jared Ikeda are closing the business after 17 years.

Photos by CHRISTINA FAILMA | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The Peanut Shop and Moiliili Mochi & Candies on Liliha Street is locally famous for its vibrantly colored tea cookies. Eva and Jared Ikeda, who combined both businesses in 1991, are closing the shop.

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The seemingly odd combination of peanuts and mochi has proved a success for Eva and Jared Ikeda over the past 23 years. But come July 23, the couple will boil their final nut and pound their last mochi and close their Peanut Shop & Moiliili Mochi and Candies store in Liliha for good.

The Ikedas have been unable to negotiate a lease with their new landlord, and on Monday decided to call it quits.

"We were looking for another place, but we just couldn't find a suitable place," Jared Ikeda said. "The startup costs would be kind of high, and we had to start all over again, and it might not be worth it."

The Ikedas, who say they both are "over 60, but less than 70," said they also attempted to sell their business but couldn't find a buyer. Jared Ikeda estimated that it would cost at least $50,000 to move the equipment and set up at a new shop.

"It's difficult when you don't have a lease," he said. "They would have to do the same thing. They would have to buy it and move to someplace else."

The Peanut Shop and Moili'ili Mochi & Candies started as separate businesses more than 50 years ago. Bob and Mildred Nako ran B&M Peanut Shop on Beretania Street, and the mochi store was operated by a Mrs. Sakai on King Street in Mo'ili'ili. (The Ikedas can't remember her first name.)

Old-timers likely remember the Nakos for their boiled peanuts, which were sold in plain brown paper bags outside the old Honolulu Stadium during athletic events. The Ikedas were fans of the peanuts and were frequent customers at the B&M retail store.

One day in 1985, Bob Nako told Jared Ikeda that he had lost his lease and decided to retire. Rather than see the business come to an end, Nako suggested that Ikeda buy it.

Ikeda said he always wanted to run his own business, and asked Eva if she were interested. Both had comfortable state jobs at the time.

"When he came home he was like, 'You want to buy this?,' " Eva recalled. "I was like, 'No.' But it turned out really well."

Eva Ikeda said she initially objected because she thought she'd be the company's "gofer" and would have to work really hard. But the work turned out to be "not as hard as I thought it would be" and she learned to love being a small-business owner.

With no lease at the Beretania store, The Peanut Shop was moved to Young Street. At about the same time, the Ikedas heard that the owner of Moili'ili Mochi was selling her shop, and the Ikedas jumped at the chance and bought the business.

In 1991, the Ikedas again were faced with a rent increase at the Young Street store and decided to move both operations to their current Liliha Street location. The businesses were consolidated, and the Ikedas kept the Moiliili Mochi & Candies name despite its new location.

"Everybody knew the name, and it was so popular. People found us," Jared Ikeda said.

From their small Liliha shop, the Ikedas boiled and roasted peanuts, as well as making 13 varieties of mochi. They expanded their inventory to include candies, crack seed and at one time made their own peanut butter.

With large regular accounts like Longs Drugs and the Aloha Stadium, as well as walk-in customers at their store, the couple and their three employees were kept busy. New Year's and Boys' and Girls' days were especially hectic times for the store.

But a couple of years ago, Jared Ikeda developed health problems and turned over most of the company's operations to his wife. Now, with the lease issues, the two decided it is time to leave the business.

"She pretty much was running the place and taking care of everything, so for us to get started again, it would be difficult," Jared Ikeda said. "If I was healthy, I don't know, things might be different."

The couple said they will miss their regular customers and the employees who have become part of their family. Eva plans to baby-sit her grandchildren while Jared will enjoy life.

"A lot of our customers have been coming to us for years just to pick up stuff from our store, and that part makes me sad," Eva Ikeda said. "But we just have to go with the times."

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.