Kanemitsu Bakery has been shut down for the second time this year for health code violations, leaving Molokai’s oldest business with an uncertain future.
The order to suspend its operations came on Monday from the State Department of Health. Kanemitsu Bakery, at 79 Ala Malama St. in Kaunakakai, has been a part of life on Molokai since 1926.
According to Kanemitsu Manager Blossom Poepoe, an ant caused the home of Molokai hot bread to get shut down.
“They (the DOH) got a complaint from someone who got some bread,” said Poepoe. “I went to look at it (on Monday) and there was a little ant inside the bread. So that’s why they shut it down.”
But the DOH said the problems went further. Apparently, health officials, following up on a June 15 complaint, inspected the bakery on June 20 and found “serious deficiencies.” They said the inspector found, “visual sighting of rodents during the inspection, no water available at the rinse compartment of the sink, unclean food preparation surfaces, no soap and hand towels at hand-washing sinks and general unsanitary conditions.”
Officials at the DOH met with owner George Kanemitsu on Oahu on Monday to issue the suspension of all bakery operations.
Mr. Kanemitsu, along with the store’s attorney, will be meeting today with DOH officials for a hearing, said Poepoe. Hopefully, said Poepoe, today’s hearing will offer a plan for reopening and also reduce the $90,000 fine levied against the bakery in May.
An inspection on March 7 and 8 uncovered, “serious deficiencies in the maintenance and manufacturing practices at the facility,” including improper cleaning and sanitizing of cooking implements and surfaces, inadequate rodent control, lack of hot water and general unsanitary conditions, the Health Department said.
Poepoe said the $90,000 fine is now being appealed in court. “How many businesses on Molokai can pay $90,000? Maybe in Honolulu, but not Molokai.”
She went on to say that the current suspension will continue until an overhaul of the operation is complete. “They said they are closing us down until we redo the whole thing — floors, walls, windows, tables, everything,” said Poepoe.
So what are the exact repairs being required? “I don’t know,” said Poepoe. “I’m really confused. You talk to one person and it’s one thing then you talk to the inspector over here and she finds every little thing that violates us, so I really don’t know.”
Poepoe appeared optimistic that the repairs can be made and that Mr. Kanemitsu intends to keep the business going. “It’s doable but it’s a lot of work, it’s a big project.”
In particular, Poepoe sees the work to replace all the floors to be a real challenge. “The bakery is huge, bigger than the whole area,” said Poepoe, pointing to the front of the store.
Besides the floors, the windows will need replacing and must include mesh screens. The walls must all be painted and the tables replaced, as well, said Poepoe.
A complete mitigation plan for the bakery is expected to come out of today’s hearing. Once the work begins, the bakery will have a better idea of when it will be able to reopen.