Maui Business

Legacy Maui mom-and-pop eatery Cupies will have new local owners by end of year

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PC: Kehaulani Cerizo

Cupies Drive In, one of the last legacy mom-and-pop restaurants on Maui, will change hands by the end of this year.

The Kahului eatery, founded by Maui’s Yoshizawa family in the early 1960s, put breaded teriyaki on the map. More than a half century later, Cupies is still known for that sweet-and-savory plate lunch, along with its crinkle-cut fries with mayo-mustard sauce, burgers, shakes and other old-school local favorites. 

Ronald “Kalani” Daniels, who owns Cupies with wife Emma, said it’s time to “pass the torch.” They’re selling Cupies operations to Larry and Janice Badua of Badua’s Maui Crepes and Grill restaurant and catering. 

Daniels told Maui Now that the acquisition will close in the next week. He will remain land and building owner.

“I’ve taken it as far as I can take it,” said Daniels, 60. “I need somebody else to grab the baton and keep moving it forward, keep making it better — better for the community, better for our overall tradition.”


“When I took it over I really didn’t think of myself as an owner, I thought of myself more as a caretaker because I was inheriting a legacy,” he added. “I don’t treat it as mine. In essence it’s not. It’s Cupie Yoshizawa’s. I’m just one of the guys who’s keeping it alive.”

After vetting a couple options, Daniels said he chose the Baduas because experience and backing make them a good fit.

Chef Badua, who has decades of experience in Maui’s culinary industry, said he’s excited to take over the iconic drive-in.

“Because Cupies been around for a long time . . . it got me excited to take over an old-school kind of food establishment,” he said Friday. “Ron did a lot of work. My goal is just basically continuing what he’s done and what was started there: Giving the locals their favorites.”

Badua said the popular items at Cupies, including breaded teriyaki and other plate lunches, shakes, burgers and fries, will stay on the lineup. 


“People can expect to see a similar menu,” Badua said. “Hopefully by the first quarter, we will be able to input a few new items. We are going to keep it local — it’s what it’s known for, local food.”

Eventually the couple plans to reopen the dining room, so they can get customer feedback and elevate the experience for patrons, he added.

Growing up with a love for cooking and after 14 years in the dining world at some of Maui’s top hotels, Badua branched out to start his own catering company in 2011. Badua’s Maui Crepes and Grill offers a mix of Hawai’i’s best plate lunch options, along with crepes.

Badua’s soon opened a kiosk at Queen Kaʻahumanu Center, then moved into the mall’s food court in 2016, where it remains. All the while, the family maintained the catering company. 

Once SixtyTwo MarcKet restaurant opened in Wailuku in 2019, Badua collaborated with owner and accomplished chef Marc McDowell, who Badua calls his mentor. 


“He helps me out with honing my talents on the culinary side,” Badua said. “I’ve been blessed to work with him after he opened his own restaurant.”

Larry and Janice Badua, along with their kids. PC: Courtesy


Guy Yoshizawa, 70, said that before his parents started Cupies at 134 W Kamehameha Ave., Kahului, a root beer franchise called Pupu Pete’s A&W Drive-In existed at the location. 

It sold root beer in frosted mugs and promoted foot-long hot dogs, along with the “Mama Burger, Papa Burger and Baby Burger,” he said. Like drive-ins of the era, staff would put a tray on the vehicle window and deliver food there.

Cupie and his wife, Yaeko “Yae” Yoshizawa, who were from Maui, bought the struggling business in 1961, Guy Yoshizawa said. By 1962, it was renamed Cupies and the new owners found a way to make it profitable — by selling plate lunches. 

Even from the early days, the breaded teriyaki was popular. 

“They used to call it barbecue,” Guy Yoshizawa said. “They had to change it (to breaded teriyaki) as time moved on because people would get confused.”

Nearby Dairy Queen was the competitor, which sold soft serve ice cream, burgers and fries. Cupies pivoted and instead showcased local specials, including meat loaf, hamburger steak, teriyaki, chili and other dishes. 

Guy and wife Aline Yoshizawa took over the family business in 1980. The two renovated and expanded the building, adding a kitchen on the right side. 

He said the old Maui Cookbook that’s red, blue and yellow was “like my Bible.”

Original menu items stayed the same but many other options were added, including lau lau, miso pork, chicken hekka and roasted chicken.

Guy Yoshizawa said the restaurant industry is tough. Competition, along with changing times, force businesses to evolve.

“My wife and I did a lot of things to the menu,” he said. “We really diversified it. As you get more competitors, you have to get more creative.”

Guy and Aline Yoshizawa in 2003 sold Cupies to Bernard Paet and Song Colagross. Then five years ago, the Daniels family bought Cupies.

PC: Kehaulani Cerizo


The Daniels, whose Native Hawaiian family goes back eight generations on Maui, wanted to restore the old-school Cupies. 

After all, some of the only mom-and-pop restaurants that remained are Sheik’s, Tasty Crust and Sam Sato’s. 

“The vision was to bring back the old feel just because we’re losing quite a bit of that,” Daniels said.

Evolving while staying rooted in tradition is not an easy feat. Also, the food industry is especially tough, and the price of meat and other products went soaring, Daniels said.

Despite higher expenses and the pandemic shut down, Daniels said it was important for him to keep the prices down.

“We’re still trying to figure out how to keep the prices down,” he said.

The owner said he will take responsibility for anything that goes wrong, but Daniels doesn’t like taking credit for what went right. 

He brushed off accomplishments like an updated space (house doors and windows were added, along with picnic tables, to make it feel like home) and a popular shake menu that features ube and Fruity Pebbles flavors (or a combination of both).

“A lot of recipes the kids came up with,” he said. “I just said, ‘Hey come up with the recipes. Especially with the shakes. I said, ‘OK, here. Tell me what to buy from the store. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.’ We have gone through 80 to 90 flavors to get to the list we have now.”

In the end, Daniels said he didn’t take over the business for the recognition or to make millions. 

“We wanted to keep it so everyone can come every day and not be broke at the end of the week,” he said. “We did what we could and we took it as far as we could. It’s time for some new blood to come in.”

PC: Kehaulani Cerizo

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