Hawaii Society of Business Professionals

June 2017: La Tour Bakehouse

June 29, 2017 - La Tour Bakehouse’s humble beginnings can be traced back to a small Vietnamese sandwich shop in Honolulu’s historic Chinatown. When Thanh Lam opened the very first Ba-Le Sandwich in 1984, his vision was to offer delicious and authentic banh mi sandwiches on freshly baked bread. Unable to find a supplier that could produce the same crusty french bread he remembered from his youth, he learned how to bake it himself. His dedication to quality bread and a focus on customer service has spanned nearly three decades and countless loaves of bread.

Throughout the years, the small family business has grown to include nearly 20 Ba-Le shops, a thriving wholesale business, presence at numerous farmers’ markets around the island and an exciting retail concept. Due to the tremendous growth and success of the wholesale operations, Thanh and his two sons decided that a new name would better encompass the range of products offered. La Tour Bakehouse was introduced in 2011 and reflects the artisan techniques used by Executive Pastry Chef Rodney Weddle.

HSBP members were fortunate to have one of Thanh’s sons, Brandon, spend some time to share the company’s story and history, including his father’s very personal journey as a refugee from Vietnam. A tour of La Tour Bakehouse’s 80,000 sq. ft. facility followed, where they bake over 300 fresh products for hotels, airlines, supermarkets and local restaurants. La Tour’s future expansion plans include growing a reputation outside of Hawaii with their Furikake Puff, now selling in Costco warehouses across the mainland. While they are bucking a trend of a declining Hawaii manufacturing industry by producing the puffs in Honolulu, Brandon discussed the challenges and costs related to shipping their products to the mainland and hinted at considering other options that will help take their business to the next level.

The event concluded with a very exciting surprise when Brandon generously offered everyone an empty shopping bag to fill with whatever pre-packaged goodies that could fit in the bags! It was like “Supermarket Sweep” and everyone went home with wonderful treats! Many members in attendance also stayed to have lunch at La Tour Café afterwards—it was a delicious way to show our appreciation and support for a great morning with Brandon Lam and the team at La Tour Bakehouse!

Apr. 2017: Kahuku Farms

Kahuku Farms is a true island treasure.  Kylie Matsuda is a 4th general farmer.  She and her husband, Judah Lum, welcomed us to their lovely farm and home.  

The Farm consists of 125 acres spread across the valley and the wonderful north shore coastline.  The Farm’s primary crops sent to market are papayas, long eggplant, luau leaves, and bananas.

Of the dozen families that formed a farming coop when the plantation shut down, there are 3 families still in business.  The Matsudas and Fukuyamas that formed the Kahuku Farmers Inc. and Matsuda-Fukuyama Farms Inc., and the Nozawas who grow sweet corn. 

Diversification was Kylie’s vision as farming is a costly and very risky business.  Agri-tourism is a great way to draw interest about island agriculture and a way to educate visitors on the importance of caring for the land while offering tasty treats produced yards to a few acres away.  Kylie said she especially enjoys educating kids about where our produce comes from.  

Both the Cafe and the Farm were opened to the public in October 2010.  The Cafe serves meals and refreshments grown on the Farm.  The Farm grows its own acai, cacao, kale, lettuce, lilikoi, sugar cane, green onions, mint and basil.  

Did you know that about 90% of our food is imported?  Although we have farms spread across the islands, on a grand scale, we produce a very small amount of our own food.  Controlling the bug population and the weeds is a constant issue.  Weeds love our year-round awesome weather just like the bugs love our crops.  Disease is another matter of concern.  On another note, making sure there is enough water is another concerning topic year round.  Farming is truly a huge undertaking.

At the start of the tour, we saw what Judah called static hydroponics, which is the most basic form and can be used for quick production.  It needs no electricity and costs very little. The pictures show lettuce growing out of the tub of water.  The container is filled with water infused with the plant nutrients and covered with a piece of styrofoam to fit the container.  Holes are cut into the styrofoam to hold the lettuce heads.

Behind the Café are raised beds with plants growing organically amid the backdrop of the grassy lawn and field.  Kylie mentioned that the Farm is working toward its organic certification for the 5 acres behind the Café.  Not surprisingly, it takes a few years to earn the designation.  On the commercial side, best farming practices are used, but now they are adopting some of the farming systems used from the Farm’s organic fields.

We walked to a section to the side, where pallets held the waste products from the Cafe.  We saw how the waste goes through stages of breakdown and its own production of microorganisms that will be used to nourish the plants.

The fields are massive.  We saw just a small portion of the farm with fields of old and new papaya trees, taro plants, cacao trees, and banana trees.  Lining the roadways were acai palms and other trees and bushes.  On the tour, we passed lilikoi vines and other trees.  We also rode by the packing plant where the produce is cared for and made ready for pickup.  

In talking to Kylie, Kahuku Farms has 15 employees specifically for the fields, café and tours, and 20 who work the commercial farm.  Quite a small amount of people for what seems like a large operation---125 acres!  

The tour ended, and we disbursed to the Café.  It was a wonderful place to contemplate the enlightening experiences of the morning.  

March 2017: HART

HSBP was treated to a tour of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) 43-acre Maintenance Storage Facility and Rail Operations Center in Pearl City for our March Boardroom event.  The Honolulu Rail project is hoping to open as early as 2020, and the entire system is projected to come online by 2025.  HSBP members were able to see the maintenance facility where the trains will be cleaned and maintained on a nightly basis, as well as the operations center where the trains will be controlled.  Honolulu’s system will be the first completely driverless transit system in the U.S., so naturally we were very curious to see the nuts and bolts behind the trains. 

Akira Fujita, the Project Manager for the facility, gave us a great overview of the coming system and we were able to board a sample train to see exactly what the city will be getting.  Officials explained that there is a lot of emphasis on safety and security, personal safety for passengers as well as the system as a whole.  Ultimately, the system will connect West Oahu with downtown Honolulu and Ala Moana Center via the airport.  Everyone expressed hope that the final system will deliver relief from the rush hour traffic and logjams that currently make commuting from West Oahu to town so painful.   

Feb. 2017: Institute of Human Services

The Institute of Human Services (HIS), Hawaii’s largest homeless shelter, hosted a group of members from the Hawaii Society of Business Professionals for February’s boardroom tour.  We were extremely lucky to be led by Connie Mitchell, the Institute’s Executive Director, who introduced the demanding array of services the Institute offers, which far exceed just housing and nourishment.  They are constantly experimenting and trying new approaches in their outreach and assistance efforts and we were fortunate to hear about several great success stories.  The highlight was the tour of the new facility on Sand Island, Hale Mauliola, opened in 2016 with some shipping containers and a lot of work from volunteers and City offices. 


If you want to help, the Institute welcomes you!  They need volunteers, donations - drive by at their Kalihi Headquarters next to CostCo in Iwilei – kitchen goods, sheets and towels, and toiletries, but most especially money.  If you can help, please go online at https://ihshawaii.org/donate


HSBP Members enjoyed a fun, informative, and extremely heartwarming tour of the Hawaiian Humane Society (HHS) in January.  Our tour guide was Allison Gammel, Director of Community Relations, a font of knowledge.  What was most surprising to many was the size and scope of the operations.  

If you think the HHS is just the front you see from Waialae Avenue, you are badly misinformed!  With recent additions, over 75 employees and hundreds of volunteers, HHS expands a couple of acres and multiple buildings in their Kaimuki space.  And although members did not visit any distress animals, the Hawaiian Humane Society has a serious mission.  

The organization is responsible for the not only stray or lost animals, but also rescued ones, and in October 2016 was the lead organization in the liberation of over 300 dogs and other animals from a disgraced puppy farm in Waianae, the largest rescue in their history.   A busy and bustling place, the Humane Society does 70 adoptions a day, on average, and a steady stream of happy adoptees, and adopters, were a delight to see.    

Nov. 18 - Blue Note Hawaii

On November 18, 2016, members of the HSBP were treated to a behind the scenes tour of Blue Note Hawaii and open discussion with General Manager, Marco Olivari.  Mr. Olivari managed the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City before arriving in Hawaii to open this exciting new entertainment venue in Waikiki.   Mr. Olivari shared the history of the Blue Note and what the clubs offer both audiences and artists around the world. 

Blue Note Hawaii was founded by Danny Bensusan.  It is a family business and is growing.  Their goal is to offer an intimate jazz club setting, equipped with the latest in music technology.  The showroom provides a personal and professional setting for entertainers and the audience, gives audiences the opportunity to experience the music and artistry of acclaimed international and local artists all while enjoying wonderful food and beverages.  

Blue Note Hawaii’s showroom is located at the OutriggerWaikiki Hotel.  It is 3-tiered consisting of a bar , and plentiful booth and table seating allowing patrons to enjoy great dining.  

Our HSBP attendees received a double perk with the opportunity to participate in a back-of-the-house and showroom tour, as well as an evening of entertainment featuring internationally acclaimed entertainer, Peter Cincotti!  Oh, and not to mention, dinner and “spirits”!  According to the attendees, Blue Note’s investment in the showroom’s sound and lighting, and the ambiance of the showroom, resulted in an amazing “true jazz club” experience!

For those interested in an upcoming show, visit www.bluenotehawaii.com for information on the entertainment lineup, ticket prices and show times.  Note that kamaainas receive a 15% discount.  

Oct. 20: NOAA Inouye Regional Center, Ford Island

On October 20, 2016, an intimate group of HSBP members had the very exclusive opportunity to visit the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) facilities on Ford Island.  After a thorough security clearance check and an okay to proceed through the gate onto the island, we were provided with a very informative tour conducted by staff members, Matt Ramsey and Patty Miller.

The tour started with a demonstration of their "Science On a Sphere (SOS)" global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe. It is an educational tool to help illustrate Earth System science to people of all ages. Animated images of atmospheric storms, climate change, and ocean temperature can be shown on the sphere to explain complex environmental processes.  They were even able to show us where sea turtles were in parts of the ocean that they were observing as one of their many research initiatives!

Our tour was then led to their auditorium.  Here we learned some very interesting facts:

*NOAA is a $331M project partially funded under the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act *NOAA provides about 400K sf of laboratory and offices *NOA consists of 16 NOAA offices on Oahu now on one campus *NOAA is LEED Gold Certified (environmentally sound design)

        *The auditorium's air conditioned using cold seawater from a 1500 foot deep well that brings the cold water up,         one of many ways in which the NOAA facility promotes a "very green" building.

        *NOAA is limited to installation of solar panels as it is a historic property.

*Noah's work includes exploring our oceans, managing our fisheries, charting our waterways, understanding our climate,  conserving our maritime heritage, deepening our knowledge of the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Arctic oceans.

*NOAA falls under the U.S. Department of Commerce and under NOAA falls the National Marine Fisheries Service (protects our ocean resources and their habitats), National Ocean Service (helped to remove the humpback whale from being on our endangered species list), National Weather Service (provides weather, water and climate data, forecasts and warnings to protect life and property), National Environmental Satellite Data and Info Service, Office of Marine & Aviation Operators (conducts marine debris cleanups and deep water explorations) and Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.

  • NOAA has 600 employees
  • NOAA receives 200 visitors per day
  • NOAA runs a 24/7 Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

NOAA History:

  • 2001 - Navy developed Ford Island master plan
  • 2005 -  NOAA selects Ford Island as site for Pacific Regional Center
  • 2006 - Groundbreaking for Pacific Regional Center Project
  • 2013 - Renamed as Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center (IRC)

Other areas of the NOAA facility that we were able to tour were the laboratory in which research is conducted on the animal life found in our waters, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in which we learned about DART sensors, Coastal Sea Level Gauges and Seismic Stations that are all placed strategically around our earth to enable detection of a potential tsunami impact to the Hawaiian Islands.  Did you know that there are two staff members at all times monitoring this center and at least one cannot be sleeping!

Our tour ended with a beautiful view of Pearl Harbor from the outside lanai of the NOAA facility and an opportunity to network with each other at one of the staffs' most favorite places - the cafeteria!

Anyone interested in booking a tour of the NOAA facility is welcome to contact Matt Ramsey at (808) 223-4404.

September 22: "Talk Story" & Tour with UH Athletics Director David Matlin

Our September Boardroom took our HSBP members to a visit with David Matlin, our new UH Athletics Director and a tour of the Athletics facility at UH Manoa. We got the opportunity to sit around and “talk story” with the new director in the LetterWinners Clubhouse (coffee and pastries included), where we got a chance to check out the Life Members wall and listen in on a presentation on what David Matlin felt was the #1 question he has been approached with since taking on his new position and that is “How is the financial situation of our UH Athletics?”. He actually stated that his #2 most frequently asked question is “When is Dave Shoji going to retire?”; however, not knowing the answer to that, he stuck to addressing #1 instead. (haha)

Some of the UH Athletics’ financial highlights that were shared were:

· Nationwide, only 10% of NCAA Division 1 public schools generate enough funds to cover expenses/

· UH also has $5.2M of additional costs, unique to Hawaii (simply due to our location), that other schools do not have and if not for the unique costs, for example, UH would have had a “surplus” in budget rather than a deficit in 2014.

· UH falls short in generating revenues in 3 of 14 revenue categories – student fees, governmental support, and contributions. Otherwise, UH is above or comparable to its peers in the other 11 categories. As such, Dave Matlin, shared his 5-year financial plan to reduce deficits and meet Athletics’ future competitive needs, shooting for a target year of 2020. The focus of his plan is to create partnerships that would help sustain the athletics program and improve tickets sales. One of the biggest successes achieved this year was the approval from the legislature to allocate $2.7M to UH Athletics for operational needs in 2017. These monies will primarily be used to redesign two gyms, the Wahine Softball Stadium, and refurbish the Les Murakami Baseball Stadium’s locker room.

Dave Matlin welcomed several questions from our members and graciously allowed time to answer all of them. During this Q&A session, we heard a few notable facts:

  • One of the biggest challenge nationwide for college athletics is that millennials are not coming out to games anymore because of their “virtual lives”.
  • UH supports 21 different sports, something a majority of other colleges do not.
  • The current average GPA of the UH student athletes is higher than the UH’s entire student body.

Our day was ended with a great tour of the UH Athletics training academy, wellness center, student athletes’ gym facilities and a back-of-house/underground tour of the Stan Sheriff Center.

It was definitely an exclusive opportunity, which everyone enjoyed!


Aug. 27: Four Seasons at Ko'olina

On Saturday, August 27th, our HSBP members were treated to a great property tour of the newly opened Four Seasons at Ko'olina.  General Manager, Sanjiv Hullagalle, and his team did a terrific job from start to end. Our group was welcomed at their Oysters and Bubbles Lounge to a delightful spread of treats from fruit-infused mimosas, to smoothies, pastries, sushi, and wonderful delicacies created by their talented catering team.  Mr. Hullagalle addressed the group, along with his Resort Manager, Mr. Phil Clough, on the Four Seasons culture; its luxury service standards and embracing the local community to help create a magical experience for guests; their employees and the residents of West Oahu. We learned that during the hiring process, there were 20,000 applications received to fill 700 positions.  Imagine that.  Additionally, we learned that the hotel has created special opportunities for guests to enjoy local activity such as fishing with the kama'ainas, and gets involved in community service projects such as cleaning up the coastline. The welcome address was conducted all while enjoying the scene overlooking the hotel's beautiful ocean view and lagoon.

Already impressed with the welcome, the group was led throughout the hotel to rooms ranging from $950 - $17,000 per night penthouse.  We walked through the lobby where a local resident from Waianae was performing beautiful music on a unique instrument.  We got in some sun as we checked out the various pool decks, roamed through the beautifully-designed restaurants, and one of our members even snuck in a photo opp with a celebrity guest staying in-house (shhhh, can't mention who)!

The Four Seasons at Ko'olina truly shined in their hospitality and our HSBP members left with a memorable experience.

May 6: Armstrong Produce Tour

Founded in 1979, Armstrong Produce has grown from a small family-run wholesale business into Hawaii’s leading produce wholesaler and distributor. With locations in Honolulu, Kona & Kahului, Armstrong Produce supplies a wide range of customers, from local chefs to big box retailers, with fresh produce every day.

Armstrong Produce is committed to sourcing the freshest produce at the best prices. The company prides itself on having built a network of partners that procure produce from around the world. Once the produce arrives in their facilities, they uphold the highest food safety standards to ensure that safe, high-quality produce is delivered to customers. Looking back at 80 years in the produce business, starting at the family farm in the 1920s, the company understands the importance of supporting local growers.  Local farmers are an integral part of Hawaii’s community, economy and food supply, and the company is pleased to source fruits and vegetables from over 100 local farmers across the state.  Our hostess for this visit was Tisha Uyehara, the Director of Marketing and Food Safety.

March 14: Creative Industries Acceleration & Innovation Programs

The February 2016 cover story for the Hawaii Business Magazine featured, “Creativity as Hawaii’s Next Big Export” and the 6 accelerator/innovation programs run by Creative Industries in six basic areas, including: screenwriting, broadband content for the web, interactive media, fashion and couture design, production and music.

Georja Skinner, the head of the Creative Industries Accelerator and Innovation program, spoke to HSBP about how Creative Industries was the fastest growing segment of the Hawaii economy.

Using the accelerator model, Creative Industries puts together panel and keynote workshops in the six basic areas.  This month the focus is on screenwriting.  The screenwriting immersion program starts with the workshops and bootcamp. 

A member of the Writers Guild of America West, Terri, spoke to HSBP members about the Hawaii program and described the importance of having a “big tent” for writers that include minorities and women.  The minority/women screenwriters is a missing component that is reflected in the lack of programming and TV series and movies that discuss feature actors of color and older women.  The Hawaii program features minorities and women and provides that missing component for the Writers Guild of America


HSBP members learned about a successful participant in the 2013 program who went from an idea to a script and finally to production of a film that was entered into the 2016 Academy Awards under the Best Foreign Films Category, Josh Kim’s “How to Win at Checkers Every Time”.

Members of the HSBP group were also invited to attend an evening presentation on Friday by the woman screenwriter for Pixar’s “Inside Out”.


November 10: Cut Collective

November’s Boardroom ventured into the field of couture and the fashion design industry.  The two principals at the “Cut Collective” fashion incubator , Alison Izu Song and Summer Shiigi, spoke about the diverse business aspects of operating as a factory hybrid for the fashion designer industry.  This is Hawaii’s fashion incubator which also functions as a factory hybrid dedicated to providing independent designers with the resources and skills to streamline their production process, transforming local manufacturing into the most innovative and affordable process, while providing a design-driven option for the local consumer.

It was fascinating to learn about the mentoring process for the 11 designers who went through the innovation workshop and to hear about how it is possible to design, cut and produce garments in Hawaii.  The “Gerber” system of placement of the pieces of the design on the fabric for cutting was intriguing.  It was also interesting to learn that the Gerber system allows designs to be sent on the internet to the production facility.  Their perspective on the fashion industry is unique and really provided the HSBP members with a view of the fashion and design industry from the designer’s and producer’s perspective.

Alison is the owner and design force behind Alison Izu Denim which focuses on clothing for petite women and is featured at Nordstrom and carried nationally at jeans.com.  Recently Alison’s design was on the cover of the November 2015 “Honolulu” magazine for the fashion week coverage.

Summer has over 12 years of experience in retail and buying and is the contributing editor for “Honolulu” magazine.  Summer has the Ten Tomorrow line of ready-to-wear fashion.

Their presentation clearly articulated how vital it is to the people of Hawaii to support and nurture the Cut Collective and the fashion designers.  

September 18: Halekulani

HSBP board members enjoyed conversation and refreshments with Halekulani CEO Peter Shaindlin, who also spoke on the company’s mission and future plans at a members-only Boardroom Series event.  The event included a tour of the property ,including the exclusive Vera Wang suite.

August 14: HPU Waterfront Lofts @ Aloha Tower Marketplace

On August 14, 2015,  12 HSBP members attended a Boardroom visit at Hawaii Pacific University’s (HPU) Waterfront Lofts at Aloha Tower Marketplace.   We were greeted by Marites McKee, Dean of Students for the Department of Student Life who took us on a tour of the property.  HPU is putting the final touches on the $50 million renovation.   Fifty percent of the Aloha Tower Marketplace will be HPU’s property and the rest will be Aloha Towers.  The Hawaii Pacific University facility will house 74 dormitory units located on the second floor which will house 278 students.  The units include lofts with single, double and triple occupancy rooms and studios with double occupancy rooms.  

On the ground floor, students will have access to facilities including the  Book Store, Learning Commons, Faculty-Student Lounge, and multi-purpose rooms and HPU offices such as the Welcome Center, Student Life, Waterfront Lofts Housing, Student Government Association, and Campus Activities Board; and various retail and dining options.

HSBP members toured all of these areas and were impressed by the large amount of space available to the students.  And the beautiful ocean and mountain views were impressive.  Not a student?  You can still enjoy the property.  The multi-purpose rooms are available for rent to the public and the dining area can also be used for private events.    

July 22: The Patisserie


On Wednesday July 22, HSBP was treated to a tour of The Patisserie in Pearl City Industrial Park. Bob and Colleen Paparelli were our hosts and gave everyone a brief introduction of their lives and the journal that brought them to Hawaii. Like most business owners, their road had a few bumps in it, including Bob’s being laid off his first job in Hawaii with Holsum Bakery. They knew they wanted to stay in the Islands and started looking around for a new job. A colleague introduced him to the prior owner of The Patisserie, the only problem was that they did not have any savings for a down payment. As Colleen put it, “really, nothing!”. Circumstances favor them with a bank and a seller that understood the experience they brought to the table and allowed them to assume the notes and take over. Initially in Makiki, they moved into a larger location on Ualena in the airport area, and by June 2013 were able to grow enough to buy their current location (27,000 square foot) in Pearl. The company has grown to over 70 employees, working 24/7/365 to bring fresh bread, pastries and cakes to some of Hawaii’s largest hotels, convenience store chains, restaurants, grocery stores, big box resellers, and the military. All the growth was achieved without any marketing, all through referrals and word of mouth. Unfortunately, due to a gravel spill, there was a terrible traffic jam and several attendees turned around. Left a dedicated group to enjoy the samplings!

May 6: Chef Zone

On May 6, 2015 - 26 HSBP members attended a boardroom at Y. Hata & Co.‘s newly opened cash-and-carry wholesale club called ChefZone.  Five years ago, ChefZone was merely an idea to help small restaurants get what they needed, when they needed it. Today, ChefZone is the culmination of that idea. It is Hawaii’s first one-stop cash & carry wholesale club designed specifically for Hawaii’s foodservice businesses.  With over 6,000 products including fresh meats, produce, dairy, dry goods, beverages, baked goods, Asian/ethnic, disposables, smallwares, tabletop, and cleaning supplies, ChefZone aims to reduce the number of supply stops for customers while helping them to increase their profitability.

Chairman and CEO Russell Hata said his intention is to bring the company’s mission of “food service beyond expectation” to ChefZone, which in addition to selling wholesale foods also includes a demonstration kitchen, tabletop showroom and “Entrée-preneurship Center. “We’ve worked tirelessly to bring you the best wholesale shopping experience to meet your everyday foodservice needs. We’re able to fit over 6,000 quality food products into 45,000 square feet of dry, chill, and frozen space.”

Our host was Christopher S. Lee, Director of their Cash & Carry Division. Chris explained that the “Entrée-preneurship Center” focuses on helping new restaurants and other small food business operations. They are able to help them with their Business Plans, Human Resources, IT, Accounting as well as Graphics and Design and Social Media. They are able to walk them through everyday challenges and help them find solutions.

We also took a tour of their 45,000 square feet of dry, chill, and frozen space facility. Including the “Chill Zone”. A large chilled room which houses a variety of ready to use products. Many of which are used in many local stores and restaurants. At the end of our tour each member received an “Ohana Membership Card” and did a little shopping.


P.O. BOX 26181, HONOLULU HI 96825     INFO@HSBP.BIZ     808.537.2356