And PAUL C. CURTISTGI Business Editor
(Published in TGI April 25, 2000)PUHI A lot of Kauai folks who knew
Wesley David Wallace said his full, familiar name as one word Wally Wallace.
It was not that people didn’t know him on a first name basisfar from itnor
was it that he needed to be distinguished from anyone with a similar name. You
could not mistake the Wally Wallace for anyone else.
He made national TV at least twice a year as a celebrity in his own right at
televised golf tournaments. He was a standout in the center spread of Sports
Illustrated as the SI photographer caught a crowd of 50 people stacked at the
green to catch a glimpse of Payne Stuart. Later Wally would treat Stuart to a
filet mignon dinner at Gaylord’s Restaurant, which Wally Wallace with his wife,
Roberta, had owned and operated for 15 years. Today, Wally and Payne are
probably teeing off at a course where a hole in one is yours for the asking.
Wallace, 63, died of cancer in his Koloa home on Easter Sunday, April 23.
He was a marketer extraordinaire and a tremendous ambassador for the County of
Kauai, says Gregg Gardiner, magazine publisher and long-time friend of
Wallace. “I don’t think there’s ever been a better-born salesman than Wally
Wallace was born to the world of entrepreneurship. He was part salesman, part
psychologist, a remarkable marketer and a gregarious soul who loved a practical
joke and shared his wry sense of humor with a closed circle of friends. Many
never saw the hilarious side of Wally but most knew how much he loved the games
of sport and business.
He was a fabulous marketer, says Barbara Bennett of This Week Kauai magazine.
“Wally was really a whiz at it. Person to person, concierge to concierge, desk
to desk, he brought success to Gaylord’s.”
His brother, Bruce, remembers Wally’s first capital venture at eight years
old. You might say Wally was in the transportation industry at an early age.
The boys grew up in Seattle. Wally went to the grocery store with his little
red wagon and waited outside, then offered to carry groceries home for
Bruce says sometimes his brother would make a nickel, sometimes a dime,
whatever customers would offer. Pretty soon it adds up to real money.
Bruce also recalls Wally’s entry into the restaurant business. At age 16, Wally
was taking a trip to Valley Forge with his Boy Scout troop when he must have
noticed that no one brought food along. With money he had made on his various
ventures, he stopped at a store on the way.
Then when the scouts got hungry, Wally made sandwiches and sold them, for a
Like most successful businessmen, Wally Wallace had a few setbacks early in his
When he was 16, he bought 300 Christmas trees wholesale but not having a sales
lot for their storage, he deposited them all on the front lawn of his home.
When brother Bruce and Mary, Wally’s mother, drove up to the house and saw the
forest, Mary’s Irish temper flared and Wally was not left unscathed.
But you can’t keep a good businessman down. Over Wally’s teen and early adult
years, he would develop a new marketing idea for the dawn of every new day.
“You never knew what you were going to find in our basement”, says Bruce,
“pinball machines, bowling alley sets.” Apparently, whatever Wally’s latest
money-making venture was, he would be sure to test market it before launch. It
greatly increased the odds of his success.
And success was Wally Wallace’s middle name because he would never hold back on
something he believed in. And if he believed in the product he was sellingand
there were manyhe could make you an apostle.
The Wally Papers, an unauthorized biography in progress, indicate that when
Wally would encounter resistance from a customer, he would put on his
psychologist hat, point to the next door neighbor’s house and tell the resistor
You Know Mrs. Jones says you can’t afford to buy this.
His wife Roberta says that by 1956, at age 20, he was the number one salesman
for the region for the company he was working forHome Utilities. He sold
household goods and always made a payment plan available to the customer. His
internal motto was Make it easy for them, easy on them.
He believed with all his heart that the products he was selling would make
people’s lives run more smoothly, says Roberta. And they did.
Above all, those who knew Wally Wallace knew how important loyalty was to him.
Invest in your friends. Cultivate good friends, he said. “Quantity is not as
important as quality. They will always be there for you.”
And he did just that. A silent but generous benefactor to many of Kauai’s
community efforts, Wally Wallace would always find some need and fill out,
sometimes as a business venture, often as a venture of the heart.
He didn’t talk a lot about the causes he gave to, say his children, but he did
give generously. And he always enjoyed the joy he was able to bring to others.
The community lost an ambassador, Gardiner says. “Everywhere that guy went, he
promoted Kauai.” He recalls a trip with Wallace to Hong Kong, Thailand and
China. “In the middle of China, he’s promoting Kauai. He never quit. The guy
Wally tasted a little of every sort of business venture. He was the proverbial
Tin Man, selling aluminum siding.
He expanded Columbia Transportation Company, Inc. from moving and storage to
He sold used cars and drove the fanciest on the lot to pick up Roberta even
though he had to get the car back on the lot before they opened the next
morning, she says.
He sold insurance and became top salesman for that company. He formed a
company called UniCard, which was a forerunner to today’s Master Card /VISA,
always keeping in mind to make it easy for them.
Wally Wallace even sold furnished homes specifically manufactured for the
Arctic environment and developed the Alaska market with an endorsement from the
Governor at the time, Bill Egan. Eventually, he created the largest mobile
home dealership in the world.
In between were near misses such as Wally’s Lake Motel built on Soap Lake in
Eastern Washington. There were Murphy beds and a great swimming pool but the
mineral lake around which the property was built and the major revenue source
soldiers at the nearby base both dried up and so Wally would move to the next
Once he rubbed elbows with fight promoter, Don King.
Wally wanted to wire various bars and taverns in Alaska for closed circuit TV,
and King sold him the rights for $6,000. The charges to the patrons far
exceeded the outlay and Wally had scored another business victory until the
line feed failed. The customers lined up for their refunds.
This kind of disaster did not discourage Wally Wallace. In 1972, Wally and
Roberta came to Kauai on vacation. By 1986, they had found a jewel in the
35-acre Wilcox Estate in Lihue.
It was first dubbed the Original Plantation Cookout and is known today as
Gaylord’s at Kilohana. It’s also known as Wally Wallace’s place.
Wallace died early Easter Sunday morning, but business went on as usual at
Gaylord’s. Son-in-law Russ Talvi was working the Sunday brunch only a few hours
after Wally’s death.
Talvi’s wife Paige, the eldest of Wally and Roberta’s four children, took her
turn at the luau later the same day.
Paul Dobie, manager of Gaylord’s for 10 years and Wally’s frequent golf buddy
said, “This is one of the greatest losses of my life. He was like a father.”
Somebody had to be at the restaurant, Russ Talvi says. He would have been there
if he could.
Wally and Roberta are the parents of four children, Paige Talvi of Lihue,
Richard Wallace of Fairbanks, Alaska, Michael Wallace of Lawai and Kim Nugent
Whittle of Seattle, and six grandchildren.