The Jammin’ Banana: Kaua‘i family builds café around daughter’s baking prowess

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From left: Emily, Doug, Kali and Megan Szurgot. Taken Feb. 21, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now

A jewelry store is located at the front of the Anchor Cove shopping center in Nāwiliwili. But those interested in a hidden gem of another kind need only turn the corner, to discover The Jammin’ Banana Bakery & Café at the rear of the outdoor mall.

The Jammin’ Banana – which will mark its six-month anniversary this March – is a family affair: It’s owned and operated by 22-year-old Emily Szurgot and her father Doug. Emily’s younger sister Megan works the front counter as a barista, while wife and mother Kali provides support.

Rows of decadent baked goods and a small icebox filled with creamy banana pudding greet all who enter the meticulously decorated eatery. While seated at a table with a fresh latte or smoothie in hand, one could easily surmise the Szurgots have run coffee shops all their lives. Yet that would be far from the truth.

“I owned an electrical company for the past 25 years,” said Doug. “Then my daughter [Emily] began selling banana bread out of our VW van this past year.”

Emily – a longtime amateur baker – spent the early part of 2023 driving throughout the South Shore of Kaua‘i to support her culinary passion. The mobile business did not have a name; Emily’s many loyal customers simply knew her as the “banana bread girl” or the “banana bread bus.”


Doug was inspired as he watched his daughter succeed.

“I thought, ‘You know what? We only live once. I’m ready to make a change,'” said Doug. “So, it just happened … This location opened up and we fell in love with it.”

The Jammin’ Banana, while tucked away from Anchor Cove’s Rice Street parking lot, certainly occupies prime real estate. The business looks directly upon Kalapakī Bay, where tourists and locals can almost always be found lounging on the beach or surfing.

  • Emily Szurgot shows off the banana bread that started it all. Taken Feb. 21, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now
  • The interior of The Jammin’ Banana Bakery & Café. Taken Feb. 21, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now
  • Mugs are among the branded merchandise available for sale at The Jammin’ Banana. Taken Feb. 21, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now

“Obviously, I would always dream of owning a bakery and café. But … I never logistically thought it was possible,” said Emily, who perfected recipes for blueberry muffins, cinnamon rolls, coffee crumbles and more while helping her father renovate the space formerly occupied by a helicopter tour company.

The hobbyist-turned-professional waxes poetic when expressing her love of baking.


“I love the aspect of it filling someone’s soul. I love the idea of soul food and that comfort comes from your stomach and happiness comes from making people feel comfortable and loved,” Emily said.

“That’s the idea behind Jammin’ Banana and comfort food,” she continued. “I think it can bring people what they reminisce about home and their grandma’s baking or their mom’s baking. It can always bring you that comfort and that home feeling and that’s what I love.”

Emily is more than a great baker: As an equally talented potter and graphic designer, she created or curated all of the decor on display at The Jammin’ Banana, as well as the stickers for sale at the cash register.

Megan is proud of her sister – even if she was doubtful when Emily first asked her to become a barista.

“At first I was like, ‘I don’t know about working with my dad and sister,'” Megan admitted with a laugh. “But as soon as I joined … I realized how important they are to me, and I really do enjoy it.”


Doug and Emily also treasure their time spent working alongside one another. According to Emily, the Jammin’ Banana has brought the Szurgot family closer together.

“I’ve seen a whole different side of my sister. She’s responsible for so much, she’s reliable and it’s a great relationship builder,” she said. “My dad – my gosh, he’s helped me through everything … My mom is the rock of it all. She holds us all together. She’s like the glue and keeps us all sane, even in the chaos of things. I’m grateful for them.”

Chaos was probably more prevalent during The Jammin’ Banana’s earliest days, as the Szurgots learned the ins and outs of their new profession. Lessons included the necessity of a backup coffeemaker, as demonstrated when their only machine broke, and the vast difference between home and commercial baking. (Customers, Doug noted with a wry smile, tend to be “a little bummed” when a café cannot serve coffee.)

Now The Jammin’ Banana – having opened at the end of last summer – is gearing up for its first tourist season. While Doug prepares for the projected increase in traffic, Emily is experimenting with new equipment needed to prepare her latest creations: Several varieties of donuts and sourdough bread. Neither will appear on the menu until Emily is satisfied she’s perfected her recipe.

“Hopefully within, say, two to three months we’ll have both of those things going,” she said.

In the meantime, those looking for a beverage or some of Emily’s currently available “soul food” can take a seat at The Jammin’ Banana any day of the week.

“The biggest thing we want is to make somebody smile if they’re having a bad day,” Doug said. “We just want to have that atmosphere.”

The Jammin’ Banana Bakery & Café is open from 6 a.m. seven days a week. Daily closing times fluctuate; current hours can be found under the café’s Google Business Profile. For more information about The Jammin’ Banana, visit its Yelp profile here. You can also follow the business on Instagram.

Scott Yunker
Scott Yunker is a journalist living on Kauaʻi. His work for community newspapers has earned him awards and inclusion in the 2020 anthology "Corona City: Voices from an Epicenter."
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