Hale Kauai: Rick Ellis retires, company changes with times

NAWILIWILI — Rick Ellis retired earlier this month from his position as president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Hale Kauai, Limited.

He was with the family-owned business for 32 years, including the last 13 holding those executive positions. He has no concrete plans for how he’ll spend his retired years.

Mike Ellis, his brother, has taken over as president and chief executive officer, and Tom Rietow has been promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Rietow had been vice president of lumber and building supplies at Hale Kauai, after a long tenure with Honsador Lumber Corp. that saw him rise to vice president, at times in charge of both that company’s Maui and Big Island operations.

Rietow has been with Hale Kauai just over a year, and he and Mike Ellis have initiated a number of changes aimed at positioning Hale Kauai for growth in the immediate future.

A new window and door department, managed by long-time Hale Kauai employee Marvin Mikasa, has opened, and the company also has a new roofing department.

The changes being instituted have been welcomed by both the employees and customers, Rietow said. “We’re excited about the change,” which includes a more aggressive business approach than folks may be used to from Hale Kauai employees, he said.

Lower prices to make the Kapa’a, Nawiliwili and Koloa locations of Hale Kauai more competitive is just the start, Rietow promised. Employees have pledged to be more customer-friendly, and everyone from management on down is committed to being even more dedicated to and involved in the community, he added.

The company is reconstructing its Nawiliwili hollow-tile brick plant to address quality concerns, and is actively making other changes to meet contractor needs, Rietow continued.

The changes, Rietow insists, have nothing to do with the planned arrival of a Home Depot store on Kaua’i.

In fact, he is sure that Home Depot’s opening will help business at Hale Kauai and other local hardware stores by stimulating comparison shopping for home-improvement supplies.

Where Home Depot has opened stores on O’ahu and Maui, smaller nearby hardware stores have seen business increase. Rietow is certain it’s because the arrival of Home Depot has gotten people excited about making home improvements.

Hale Kauai’s strength will continue to be serving residential contractors, while securing other large projects. For example, the company is supplying all the concrete for the under-construction Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club, he said.

“Hey, we’re going to be here. We’re not going anywhere,” he said.

Hale Kauai will continue to be a big supporter of the Kaua’i community, as it has been since being founded by the late Wayne E. Ellis, Sam Wilcox and Bill Moragne in 1945, Rietow promised.

“We’re a good Kaua’i business partner.”

The company has 85 employees. The stores are open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In addition to the three retail stores, the company also owns and operates a ready-mix concrete plant at Halfway Bridge, accessible by calling 245-6851 or faxing 246-2702.

The Kapa’a store, on Kawaihau Road, has its own lumber yard and retail space. The numbers there are 822-9391, fax 822-5209 for retail, and 822-1040, fax 822-2889 for lumber.

The Koloa store is on Waikomo Road immediately behind the Koloa Big Save store. The phone number is 742-9577, and the fax number is 742-7965.

For more information, please call 245-4014, fax 246-9239, see the Web site, www.halekauai.com, or e-mail hk@aloha.net.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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