In 2014 Zak Barry and Matt Hong, friends since childhood, had just graduated from college and were living in Santa Cruz contemplating next moves. After tasting a vegan “banana ice cream” made entirely from frozen bananas, they saw a business opportunity.
The two moved home to Hawai‘i—largest banana producing state in the country—and teamed up with two high school friends, Luke Untermann and Galen McCleary, to launch a food truck specializing in banana soft-serve. They call their business Banán, with the accent mark putting a surfer-dude inflection on the name. “We joke that ‘banana’ has one too many syllables,” says Barry, “but really ‘banán’ is just more fun to say.”
The young entrepreneurs fixed up an old Love’s Bakery truck they found on Craigslist, leased a vacant lot along Monsarrat Avenue in which to park it and began selling “banán”—frozen, puréed bananas. Swirled into cups, bowls or papaya halves, banán comes in various flavors, including açaí, ginger-mint-kale and, of course, plain old banana, with toppings such as shaved coconut, granola and puffed quinoa. Every Banán banana is grown on O‘ahu, as are most of the other ingredients. Instead of discarding their food waste, the guys send it to pig farms in Wai‘anae and Waimānalo. Their dedication to locavorism, combined with their ongoing contribution to local pig slop, allows the team to declare Banán a farm-to-table and a table-to-farm operation.
The Banán boys have plans for a second location in a storefront near the University of Hawai‘i, but they’re not giving up the truck, which is parked at the foot of Diamond Head, near a popular trail and several surfing spots. The location is convenient for hikers and surfers seeking refreshment. And when the guys need their own surf breaks, it’s convenient for that, too. On some occasions—the Special Olympics, a big surfing contest—they take the truck on the road. That’s when the festive atmosphere that generally surrounds Banán kicks into high gear—the body paints come out, the music blasts and one of the guys can usually be counted on to slip into a full-body banana costume and dance for the customers. “Business comes first,” says Hong, “but we also strive to inspire mindful thinking and playful living.”