Becky was born and raised in the early 50's on Orcas Island and in Seattle. When she was growing up, her weekly job was to make the cookies for her family, which got her off to a big start in the baking genre. During her first year of college she began a birthday cake business and delivered cakes to fellow classmates after writing letters to the parents, appealing to their sentiments. Using the income from her first business, she purchased a one way ticket to Hawaii in the summer of 1969. While in Honolulu, she worked as a trimmer on the graveyard shift for Dole Pineapple Company, where she got her first taste of the tropical flavors that would eventually permeate her business life.
Becky began making her granola in the mid 70's when she lived as a caretaker on a remote island in the San Juan Islands in Washington State. On her old ship's stove in her log cabin, she cooked her first batch of tasty granola. Jumping ahead five years, she established a horticulture therapy garden with people with disabilities. They grew organic vegetables on the banks of the Snohomish River and sold the produce to nearby restaurants. In 1981, the winds of change blew Becky thousands of miles west to a sunnier island. As soon as she landed on Kauai, she knew she had discovered her home. In 1986 Becky was a single mother with a 2 year old daughter to support. Living in a small house tucked into the deep canyon in Anahola Valley on the east side of Kauai, she often served her granola to friends who stopped by her house. Everyone loved its light, crunchy sweetness. The Christmas of 1986, Becky made a few pounds of granola, scooped it into hand-labeled zip lock bags, and took them to the local fairs. Terry Sullivan, the owner of Kilauea Farmers Market, loved her granola and promised to buy it for her store if Becky could find a certified kitchen.
Anahola Granola's first kitchen was located in a workshop day program for people with disabilities called Rehabilitation Unlimited Kauai. Becky loved renting the kitchen and hiring people with disabilities. One young man colored in the rainbow on the label with magic markers. In the first three years of the business, these dedicated employees were trained to bake and pack the granola into bags. With Malia strapped into her car seat, Becky delivered the orders around Kauai.
When Rehabilitation Unlimited Kauai closed, Becky put on a tool belt, and built a café in the heart of old Kapaa town. She launched the Deco Gecko Café the summer of 1989. Her idea was to sell great espresso, a new concept to the island, and baked goods. Before long, the menu ranged from pies, cakes, and muffins to prepared salads, entrees and tamales. At night, Anahola Granola was baked in the kitchen ovens. As a 5-year old towhead, Malia was a regular at the café greeting customers and helping in the bakery. Today this building houses Java Kai and is on the main highway in Kapaa.
Becky sold the Deco Gecko in 1991 and six months later the beautiful island of Kauai suffered the rampage of Hurricane Iniki. The results were devastating to Kauai and the tourist industry was destroyed in one fell swoop. For three months the residents of Kauai lived with the constant hum of generators as they began re-building the island. All business on Kauai had come to a screeching halt, including Anahola Granola. Even before the electricity was restored on Kauai, Becky realized that her ovens would be capable of baking granola, months before the hotels on Kauai would be up and running. She donned her trusty business suit, her briefcase of granola samples, and flew to the outer islands. She was blessed to meet with executive chefs from hotels on Maui, the Big Island and Oahu, who were sympathetic to the plight of their offshore sister island of Kauai. Becky returned home with many new hotel accounts. When the electricity was restored, she fired up her ovens, and began shipping granola off island via cargo plane.
Between 1992 and 2006, Anahola Granola slowly grew in the small certified kitchen on the property of All Saint’s Church in Kapaa. It was tucked in the back of a large gym used for hula and other Polynesian dance classes. At the end of many classes, both children and adults came to the screen door asking for a taste of Anahola Granola, lured by the wafting sweet golden smell.
In May 2006 Becky and her husband, Stewart, purchased a historic building in Hanapepe Town on the west side of Kauai. The building was built by Mr. Shimonishi in the mid 1930’s, who also grew and bred exotic orchids in his nursery in the back yard. He built the 2 story building with bricks he made by hand and the building has housed a feed store, roller skating rink, rooms for rent, art gallery, a used book store and wholesale bakeries.
Today, the bright yellow building, draped with trellises of bougainvillea, has a commercial space downstairs and 4 1-bedroom units upstairs. From May 2006-January 2010, Anahola Granola used half of the downstairs commercial space while renting out the other half to Farsyde Tatoo. In January 2010, bursting out at the seams, Anahola Granola took over both spaces, doubling the production area. With the move into the additional space, Anahola Granola began shipping pallets of the 24 oz. Original Granola to Costcos on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island and the full product line is now sold in many retail stores throughout the other islands.
Over the past 24 years, although the recipe for Anahola Granola has never changed, many things have changed in Becky’s life. Malia, Becky’s daughter who was 2 years old when the business began, is now 26. She went off to college and moved to New York City to teach in a school in South Bronx with Teach for America. Today, while living in Chicago, Malia helps her Mom in the business with marketing and promoting internet sales. In the spring of 1998, Becky met a man who brought the right mix to her life with Malia, and in August 2003, Stewart and Becky were married at her home on Orcas Island. Besides her family, Becky has many loyal employees that have been with Anahola Granola for over 8 years; all of them for which she is very grateful.
Becky dreams of the sleepier days of Anahola but loves the excitement of building a business, nearly brick by brick. Becky feels that she has grown up with her business, learning the trade as she went. Long before sustainable, health food and granola was hip, Becky was a practitioner of that life style. Anahola Granola has been guided by Becky’s vision of a slow growth business run as a cottage industry while providing excellent customer service. At one time this was not the popular business model but is now in line with a new concept fueled by the slow food movement.
If you have any questions about Anahola Granola or would like to talk-story with Becky about her early days in Hawaii, you can email her at [email protected]