By Léo Azambuja
For almost four decades, Popo’s Cookies has made life a little sweeter for island residents and visitors. A grandmother originally started the business, and years later her granddaughter took over. About seven years ago, a couple from the East Coast bought the business and set up shop in the Westside.
“Popoʻs Cookies started on the island in 1982 in Kapa‘a by a grandma,” said Erin Cornett, baker and owner of the business. She added popo means grandma in Chinese. “She baked for many years, and her granddaughter baked under her for about 18 years.”
Cornett and her husband, Kevin, bought Popo’s Cookies in 2013, and then moved to Kaua‘i from the East Coast to operate the business. Along with the name and tradition of Popo’s Cookies, the Cornetts bought all 14 original recipes.
“All the recipes are the same; the ingredients are all the same,” Cornett said. “The only thing that we really changed was the location.”
Popo’s Cookies is now in Hanapepe Road, right there in the vibrant strip where every Friday evening the Hanapepe Art Walk brings an extra pulse of arts, food and entertainment to the island.
Even the cookies’ labels are still the same, but they now have color and have been updated to 20th century standards — yes, the 1900s — by including a UPC bar.
From May 2013 to October 2015, the Cornetts took their time to set up shop and and building relationships with original retailers. During that time, Popo’s Cookies was closed. But it has been back for more than four years, to the relief of old fans and the delight of new ones. If you haven’t tried the cookies yet, their slogan might just convince you: “You’ve tried da rest, now try da best!”
Besides selling their goods at the Hanapepe location, Popo’s Cookies is sold in original retail spots such as Sueoka Store, Ishihara, Kukui‘ula and Pono markets. Cornett has expanded to sell at Uncle Shave Ice, Whalers in Po‘ipu, ABC in Kalapaki, Island Country Market at Coconut Marketplace, Koloa Rum Gift Store and the gift stores at the Grand Hyatt and the Kaua‘i Marriott.
The three best sellers, Cornett said, are the Butter Dreams, the Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nuts and the Keola Deelites.
The Butter Dreams is basically a butter cookie, and you can’t go wrong with that. But Popo’s Cookies takes it to another level by adding corn flakes, giving the right amount of crunchiness to the cookies.
The Keola Deelites is similar to a Mexican wedding cookie — hold it long enough and it might melt in your hands. The extra ingredient that makes it so good is the macadamia nut.
The Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nuts needs no explanation. Who doesn’t like chocolate or mac nuts?
The other flavors are Almond, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Krispie, Coconut, Coconut Macadamia Nut, Chocolate Coconut, Peanut Butter, Macaroon, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, White Chocolate Cranberry, and Macadamia Nut. You’ll find most of them available at any given time at the Hanapepe location.
Popo’s Cookies is at 3900 Hanapepe Rd., Suite F, behind Little Fish Coffee. The store is open Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday from 12:30 to 9 p.m. You can reach them at email@example.com or at (808) 482-4545. They also have a Facebook page.