Sunny Side a sweet Wahiawā treat
Walk into Wahiawā's Sunny Side Bakery and you might think you've time-traveled back into the 1970s and landed in a local diner famous for its pies.
That's just fine with the customers as well as Judy Fukuchi, who's been making pies there for nearly 30 years.
"It's a nice place to work; it's a family organization," Fukuchi said. Her personal pie preference is the peach/pear combination with the double crust.
People come from all over for the pies at Sunny Side, especially the chocolate cream pie. Last Thanksgiving week, the small shop off Kilani Avenue sold 700 of the chocolate cream alone, at $8.50 a pie. Then there's the fresh banana pie with a double crust, where you can see and taste slices of banana.
But it's also known for its local-style diner food, including homemade hamburgers, a fried-rice special for breakfast and teri beef for lunch.
Owner Britania Fajardo has worked at Sunny Side since 1997, after moving to Hawai'i from the Philippines. In 2008, when co-owner Luci Shimonishi decided she wanted to step out of the big job, Fajardo and another employee, Evangeline Yden, stepped in to take over.
To seal the deal, Fajardo said they agreed to not change any of the signature recipes, although they can add things to the menu.
Fukuchi said the transition has worked well: "Nothing changed. We just carried on the same old way."
Customer Mark Oyasato lives nearby and drops by to pick up a meal or a pie. One of his favorites is blueberry cream pie, which is usually only sold on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
But Oyasato likes more than just the sweets and stopped in this week for takeout that included a teri beef plate and liver and onions.
Fajardo said regulars like Oyasato keep Sunny Side going, even when the economy slows.
And the pies and the diner balance out the business, with one sustaining the other. The pies make up at least 60 percent of the sales.
Oyasato says quality has kept up under new management.
"Basically, it's the same," he said.
Fajardo, 45, isn't exactly sure how long the bakery/diner has been around. She knows that it's been decades, and has heard it's closer to 50 years old. Earlier, the eatery was by the old bus depot.
Nani Travis has worked at Sunny Side for nearly eight years and likes the people she works with, the flexible hours and the loyal customers.
"It's been a family tradition that's been passed down for years and years," Travis said.
"We have people come from Wai'anae to Hawai'i Kai to Waimānalo," she said.
Fajardo said the days can be long, but the people are friendly on both sides of the counter and she gets help from her family. You can find her daughter folding pie boxes after school and her husband taking orders at the counter.
She said her day often starts at 4 a.m. and ends about 6 p.m. "Every chance I get, I go home and take a nap," she said.
Fajardo said that breakfast is the busiest meal for the coffee shop, especially for the under-$6 favorite, the fried-rice special, which comes with an egg and Spam or hot dog.
"It's cheap and delicious," Fajardo said with a proud smile.
As for piemaker Fukuchi, who is 71, she said she plans to keep baking — 24 pies at a time — "as long as I can."