By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
He’s spent the last decade baking with aloha at his small roadside shop in Papaikou, garnering an islandwide reputation for his signature malasadas.
But Rand Walls, better known as Baker Tom, says he can no longer continue to “feed the village.”
Walls said he was making his last batch of malasadas Wednesday at the bakery along Highway 19, marking an end to 10 years in business, and was preparing to close his kitchen.
The cause, he said, is a sharp increase in rent that he can’t afford. It would go into effect Sept. 28.
Walls said he’s done baking and has used the last of his flour. He is keeping Baker Tom’s open until he has nothing left to sell, but he didn’t know if anything will be left today.
“It’s a garage sale here,” he said, “a few odds and ends are going to go out.”
Still, Walls is not ready to take the apron off just yet and he is hopeful he can find a new location, possibly with the help of some investors.
“It may all sit in storage,” he said. “I’d love to have an investors meeting at some place. I got tip money left to take and buy (them) a pizza.”
He would like to move near the airport to give him more exposure.
But if that doesn’t happen, Walls, 57, said he is considering retirement.
That would come as a disappointment to many of his customers, including the approximately 60 who have provided Walls with their contact information in case he reopens.
One of them, Jedediah Kay of Puna, said the bakery has been the reason why he stops in Papaikou.
“For me, it’s Tom’s conversation,” he said, later adding, “Obviously, the food is amazing.”
Barbara Walls, Rand Walls’ mother, said the bakery has provided Papaikou residents with a place to meet and drink coffee. She said customers have been overwhelmed by the news.
“It’s a real part of their lives,” Barbara Walls said, while tearing up.
Rand Walls said he is past the point of tears but couldn’t hide his disappointment.
The eccentric baker said he always enjoyed talking with customers, adding some say he has a “gift for gab” while others say he is “out of his mind.”
The closure comes over a month after an unsuccessful mayoral campaign, in which he received 227 votes. “They are the ones that loved the product,” he said of the voters.
If customers remember anything about Baker Tom’s, he said he hopes it’s his love for baking and teaching others his craft, and “that I fed them with aloha.”
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.