David "Buddy" Nobriga
Cathy Nobriga Kim
A Horse's Tale
It all started for the Nobrigas when Grandfather Manuel joined Maui Soda & Ice Works in 1922. His job was to deliver ice to Kahului homes from a horse and wagon. Today, Company President Mike Nobriga tells the story of his grandfather's first day on the job, "Mr. Wadsworth, the owner, took him out to this horse wagon, told him to load it with ice and start delivering. Grandpa said he didn't know where he was supposed to deliver. Mr. Wadsworth told him, 'Don't worry the horse knows.' Grandpa loaded up the wagon, started out to Kahului, and sure enough, when he got to a home, the horse stopped. The only problem was when Grandpa got back from delivering the ice, he threw the ice tongs in the back of the wagon and the horse took off. He was chasing down the horse, thinking, what was he going to do, but then the horse stopped at the next house to deliver ice. That's on-the-job training!"
Three Generations of Goodness
Maui Soda & Ice Works, Ltd. was founded in 1888 by a foward-thinking entrepreneur named Mr. French. The original plant, located at Kahului Harbor, was destroyed just after 1900 when the town was burned to eradicate the plague. The company then moved to its present Wailuku location where the ice, soda and ice cream business flourished under the Wadsworth family.
When long-time company manager Manuel Nobriga took over the company in the 1940s Maui Soda & Ice Works was a community icon supplying the island with locally-produced ice and Coca Cola soda products. Manuel became the creative force behind Maui's original ice cream first known as Dairymen's -- famous for its velvety smoothness.
Manuel's son, David "Buddy" Nobriga, started working for the company in 1941. When his father retired in 1971, Buddy became president of the company. Maui Soda & Ice Works continued to grow under his leadership and the ice cream business took on a life of its own as Buddy premiered the Roselani Ice Cream line using his father's time-tested recipes while creating many new flavor innovations. Buddy tutored his eldest son Michael as the next president of the overall family operation while daughter Cathy was tapped as vice president of ice cream production.
She started working on the "ice cream side" when she was 15 years old.
Buddy "officially" retired in 1998, but still serves as chairman of the board and, as his children fondly point out, he still retains the largest office. All five children of the Nobrigas third generation at Maui Soda see to the day to day soda and ice cream operations -- eldest son Michael serves as president, daughter Cathy reigns over the Roselani Ice Cream division, David handles fleet maintenance, Jay supervises the warehouse and distribution system while Robert oversees the trucking and receiving.
Today the Roselani brand can be found throughout Hawai'i as the premier ice cream of the islands. Now in its 121st year in business, Maui Soda & Ice Works continues to grow. In 1997, the company underwent a major, multi-million-dollar plant expansion to meet consumer demand.