by Ariana Seltmann, Special to Ka ‘Ohana
Kristina Swenson-Stewart and her husband Josh opened Mother Bake Shop in Kailua last February, right before the pandemic hit. One year later, it’s a popular destination for bread, pastries and coffee whether you’re vegan or not.
Kristina is originally from Kailua, and after she met her husband on the East Coast, they decided to open a bakery together.
“We wanted to raise our family in Kailua and wanted to be a part of the community that I grew up in and love so much,” she said.
The couple started by baking and selling goods from their home and taking custom orders for special events. They grew a fan base online, apparent from early posts on their Facebook page. People were delighted when they announced plans to for their first location. After unexpected delays, Mother Bake Shop opened its doors in February 2020.
“It has been a wild whirlwind of very little sleep and lots and lots of work,” Swenson-Stewart said of their first year.
One month in, she said having to change to a “‘pandemic-friendly’ business was pretty nuts.”
The bakery quickly transitioned from taking orders in person and encouraging takeout and contactless payment methods to only accepting online or phone pre-orders and offering curbside pickup or free delivery in Kailua. By the end of March, Kristina and Josh closed Mother Bake Shop temporarily for everyone’s health and safety. Toward the end of May, the bakery reopened with a takeout window for customers to walk up to and place their orders, which has become a signature part of its storefront.
When it comes to selecting produce, Mother Bake Shop is all about sourcing locally and ethically.
Swenson-Stewart said, “We try to get as much local ingredients as we can. We make friends with our suppliers and local farmers. We really love the relationships we have formed so far. It’s great to know the folks that produce our food.”
The bakers even base their ideas for pastries off what fresh fruits and vegetables are available, so the flavors on the menu change often. However, some things are constant, like their popular organic artisan white sourdough loaf, and what Kristina calls cruffins—croissants shaped like muffins that are filled with fruit or chocolate fillings.
One Yelp reviewer wrote: “These guys have such amazing pastries every week. The menu changes, and I am never disappointed in trying something new. From ‘lox’ bagels, zaatar twists, cruffins to this amazing s’more pastry I‘m eating right now, I have never been disappointed.”
When it comes to interacting with the community, the bakery strives to spread happiness and joy.
Swenson-Stewart said, “There are so many terrible things happening, and people are facing so much tragedy in their lives. We just want to give them something that makes them happy or give a cookie to a friend that is down.”
The bakery also has created an “If can, can; if no can, no can” board, which is its way of giving customers a way to pay in advance for goods for people who might need it. This is not the only way Kristina and her husband use their business to help improve the lives of others. The bakery has also hosted special sales of cakes and donated some of the proceeds to various charities.
Swenson-Stewart often uses the bakery’s social media platforms to speak out and share information about recent events and issues in the local community and world like the Black Lives Matter movement.
She said, “We are anti-racist and intersectional feminists who are very passionate about local, national and global issues and fighting for civil rights.”
When the bakery reached its first anniversary this past February, every customer was offered a slice of birthday cake to take part in the celebration.
Whether it’s a delicious pastry, a lesson in kindness or the importance of social justice issues, there’s something for everyone to take away from Mother Bake Shop.