An elderly couple in Hawaii has finally come up with an American product that the Japanese seem to want as much as Americans want Japanese VCRs and cars: macadamia nut and coconut pies. Rusty and Kay Percell took their pies to a Tokyo food show earlier this year, and the Japanese food buyers went wild. They liked the pies so much that now the Percells can hardly keep up with the orders. Indeed, they are staring at a 3-million-pie year.
This is not exactly what the Percells had in mind when they retired to Hawaii in 1980 after being in the baking business for nearly half a century. But when they lost almost all their retirement money in a Ponzi scheme, they had to do something. So they started baking pies in their kitchen, selling them to tourists through restaurants and hotels. Among their best customers were Japanese tourists. That led the Percells to think they might have a promising export product on their hands. They attended the Tokyo show -- and never looked back.
So what about retirement? The Percells say they're far too busy even to think about it. Right now, they've got to worry about finding enough people to bake all those pies. "I guess we'll have to sign up everyone in Kona," says Rusty Percell, "and everyone's brother."