Maui Soda & Ice Works: 2022 Hall of Fame Winner

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The company was founded in 1884 as an ice and refrigeration business, and has been owned and operated by the Nobriga family since 1946.
From left to right: Brian Fevella, Buddy Nobriga and James Nobriga. | Photo: Ryan Siphers

“When we look back and compare our business over all these years, it’s like two different worlds,” says Buddy Nobriga, director of sales and marketing for Maui Soda & Iceworks.

Nobriga’s great-grandfather worked in the business in the 1920s, using a horse and cart to deliver ice to homes for refrigeration. The company has evolved a lot since then and today sells more than 300 drinks and more than 400 different frozen foods.

“We became a Coca-Cola bottling franchise in 1924,” says Nobriga, and Coca-Cola products remain a central part of the business.

Then, in 1931, an ice cream company that rented premises in Maui Soda went bankrupt and abandoned its machines. Buddy’s great-grandfather, Manuel Nobriga, taught himself ice cream production using three books.

“Today, we use much of the same methods” to produce the company’s Roselani ice cream, says Buddy Nobriga. “That’s what makes us unique.”

The Nobriga family purchased Maui Soda & Ice Works in 1946 and are currently working on a succession plan for fourth generation family members such as Buddy to eventually run the business.

“We are very keen to keep the family involved in the business,” said Brian Fevella, President and CEO.

The company has just over 80 employees in Maui and Lāna’i, most of them long-term. “We are extremely blessed with the track record of over 50% of our employees having over 20 years with us,” says Nobriga.

The business is heavily dependent on tourism and lost around half of its revenue in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. He is still struggling to get back to normal. “Every week we have a new issue with supply chain and just labor, and everything else that a lot of other companies have to struggle with,” Fevella says.

Despite these challenges, Nobriga and Fevella say the company has used the pandemic as an opportunity to give back to the community. He donated products to food banks and first responders, including the National Guard, hospital staff and firefighters.

Nobriga and his father, James Nobriga, were enthusiastic in their appreciation of the community’s support over the years, speaking in tandem and finishing each other’s sentences: “We support the community as best we can. And if the community supports us, we can stay in business. It is true that local support for local businesses is the key to success. We wouldn’t be 138 without the community.

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