When it comes to Momona Bakery and Coffee Shop, customers must decide what they desire more: Sleep — or flaky, doughy, sweet croissants stuffed with lilikoʻi and other flavors.
Judging from long early-morning lines over the last week, people are choosing the latter.
Momona Bakery and Coffee Shop, which opened a little over a month ago in Kahului town, serves hundreds of freshly baked pastries a day, but the most popular items — the stuffed croissants and the cinnamon rolls — are usually sold out by 9 a.m. Staff advises that people arrive by 7 a.m. to get what they want.
Three Argentinian friends who opened the small business didn’t think it would be this busy.
“I never expected this,” Sofia Prassolo, head baker and Momona founder. “It makes me, like, I wanna do more. I want, I wish I could have more for the other people.”
Momona Bakery and Coffee Shop at 7 E. Kaʻahumanu Ave. offers Prassolo’s signature pastry: the Argentinian version of croissants, called medialunas. Compared with French croissants, medialunas are more doughy and sweet.
“Our croissant of course Argentinian is soaked in sugar, like simple syrup with honey or sugar,” Prassalo said. “It makes it more doughy and wet and super sweet.”
Momona Bakery medialunas can be ordered plain, or stuffed with lilikoʻi, custard, chocolate, dolce de leche and other fillings. Cinnamon rolls are made with the croissant dough and topped with cream cheese filling.
Other pastries include Argentinian cookie sandwiches, sticky buns, lemon loaves and banana loaves. The menu is rounded out by savory items, including avocado toast, salmon toast and three types of sandwiches. Also, coffee drinks and other beverages are offered.
Prassolo, who has one assistant, is currently working about 14 to 15 hours a day to make up to 350 freshly baked pastries, which doesn’t include the sandwiches and other food. The baker said she values quality ingredients, and will not compromise if items are out of stock.
“I really use like the best flour butter or the chocolate or those things that I feel like it makes the difference,” she said.
Baking as a career wasn’t something that Prassolo could have predicted. Growing up in Argentina, she enjoyed making cakes for friends but “hated” cooking in her family restaurants.
“But I always grew up in that industry,” she said. “My grandparents have restaurants, then my mom. So I grew up with that — but eating, not baking or doing anything. And then when I moved here, I was like, I miss the Argentina croissants, so I’m gonna try to make them. And that’s how we started. And then swap meet, and then we never stop.”
Prassolo, who’s lived on Maui nearly nine years, learned how to make medialunas then began selling them to friends in the tight-knit Argentinian community.
Her first public debut was at the Maui Swap Meet in 2019. But during the pandemic shutdowns of 2020, her business soared.
Prassolo employed friends to make drop-offs around the island every Saturday. Her main customers were local families who found her on social media and placed orders.
Once stores reopened, the baker stocked unique selections at Kūʻau Mart, Sip Me, Java Cafe and Akamai Coffee shops. She said the small businesses were supportive and gave her credit for the pastries, which further boosted demand.
After popularity continued to grow, the young baker, who lives in Haʻikū, teamed up with Argentinian friends Silvana Larcher of Wailuku and Lucia Sabbione of Wailuku to open Momona Bakery and Coffee Shop so she could have her pastries at one site.
“[I] just wanted a small, tiny shop — like just one door you open, and suddenly you end up in it,” Prassolo said, laughing. “I don’t know how. But I just wanted a door. They come here and that’s it.”
Originally developed as a Pioneer Federal Savings Bank in the ‘80s, the Momona building needed tons of permits and work before opening. Several times, the trio felt like giving up. But with the help of Larcher’s husband who does construction, the group persisted over a year and a half of work.
Larcher, who owns jewelry and gifts boutique To The Moon And Back in Pāʻia, said the friends share a love for design and details. The new space feels airy, clean and welcoming.
Also, she said it was important that the owners have a Native Hawaiian blessing ceremony to ask permission that they work in the space.
“Before we open, we call her and ask her please, do the blessing and ask permission to work. And she totally changed when I said. Ask please permission to work here. We know we are from another place and we love Maui as a home and my son was born here,” said Larcher, who has lived on Maui nearly 25 years.
Since the doors opened, the trio hasn’t been able to take a break. Owners said they are working on adding more staff so they can produce more pastries.
“It’s a big problem, but it’s a good problem,” Prassolo said. “We have to bake three times more. We have to have three times more people.”
Most of all, though, they said they’re thankful for the local community’s support.
“We are grateful for the community,” said Larcher. “We didn’t expect this . . . our hearts are full.”
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