HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Love’s Bakery, whose ovens have been filling Hawaii stomachs for nearly 170 years, will close its doors at the end of March amid growing pandemic-related losses.
More than 230 employees at the bakery will be laid off.
In a notice to state and federal agencies about the mass layoff, the company said it is seriously delinquent in rent, unable to qualify for additional federal Paycheck Protection Program monies and has seen major delays from mainland suppliers for ingredients and parts for aging equipment.
The company also said it was not able to secure additional capital.
“We have worked diligently to cut expenses, to maintain our market share and to remedy our operational difficulties, however under the current business environment we are no longer able to continue operations,” Love’s Bakery said, in a statement.
“Love’s local management is committed to closing its doors in a responsible manner. We wish to thank all of our employees, suppliers, customers, friends, neighbors, and business partners for their loyalty and support.”
Chuck Choi, attorney for Love’s Bakery, called the company a “casualty of the pandemic.” He said sales in 2020 were down more than 20 percent.
The company received $2.8 million in federal stimulus money early in the pandemic but could not secure additional funds.
“Rather than continue operating in the face of mounting losses, the board made the decision to shut down operations,” Choi said, in a statement.
The news came as a shock to generations of Hawaii residents, who grew up on the company’s locally-made loaves and treats.
But business experts warned other kamaaina companies are facing the same pressures.
“We do expect to see a number of iconic brands to close because entire industries have been put on pause for months,” said Ryan Tanaka, president of Island Business Management.
Love’s Bakery, started in 1851 by Scottish baker who specialized in “re-baking” bread from sailing ships, survived some of the biggest crises to hit Hawaii.
The company weathered outbreaks of the bubonic plague in the early 1900s, both world wars, and thrived after statehood.
But the coronavirus did it in.
During the pandemic, residents may have been buying more bread for their pantries. But the company saw a significant drop in sales from commercial buyers, including hotels and restaurants.
Love’s sells loaves, buns, bagels and English muffins, and also distributes under different brands.
Over the decades, the company changed hands several times. In 2008, Love’s Bakery once again became Hawaii-owned when a local management company purchased First Baking Co.
The company would have celebrated its 170th anniversary in July.
Its early locations were on Nuuanu Avenue and Iwilei. The company moved to Kapahulu Avenue in 1948 and then to its current home on Middle Street.
Love’s has hired Oahu Auctions to auction off equipment and fixtures in April.
This story will be updated.