Brodie leaves behind legacy of business with aloha
LIHU’E — Famous for more than 1,000 commercials featuring the slogan, “Thank you … very much,” and an image of the “Little Joe” caveman mascot that he created in 1964, Lex Brodie will be remembered for his creative approach to doing business.
The longtime Kaua‘i resident and businessman died Friday morning at the Regency at Puakea in Lihu‘e. He was 98.
Best known for starting Lex Brodie’s Tire Company, he also founded Small Business Hawai‘i and was elected to serve on the state Board of Education.
After retiring from the school board in 2003, he returned to Kaua‘i with his wife Evelyn, where as an avid surfer, he surfed until he was 90.
Born at Kekaha on Kaua‘i in 1914, Alexander Hofgaard “Lex” Brodie was the only child of Alexander Brodie and Gertrude Hofgaard. His grandparents were Waimea lumber merchant and District Magistrate C.B. Hofgaard and his wife, Marie Hofgaard.
In a 2009 article in The Garden Island, Brodie recalled that once a year, lumber for “Grandpa Hofgaard’s Waimea store” would be off-loaded in bundles from a ship directly into the ocean off Waimea and floated ashore, with children swimming out to snag loose pieces of wood.
He also recalled in the article how, when he was five years old, his Grandpa Hofgaard created a surfboard for him and remembered riding in his grandpa’s Model “T” Ford loaded with kids to Pakala’s where he learned to surf.
An avid surfer, he continue to pound the waves for the next 85 years.
His other memories of growing up in Waimea included his being the only haole in his elementary school class, watching silent films shown in a vacant lot with a white sheet as the screen, and “ladies of the evening” from Honolulu waving to passersby from the balcony of the only two-story building in Waimea, across the street from the bank, and his grandma being furious about the situation.
In 1926, when he was 12, Brodie’s family moved to Honolulu, but he still spent summers on Kaua‘i with his grandpa during his teenage years.
On O‘ahu, he was in the first graduating class of Roosevelt High School.
In 1933, he was one of the first beach boys in Waikiki and went into business giving canoe rides and surf lessons with Sam Kahanamoku, Duke’s brother.
Brodie eventually moved on and took a job in the pineapple industry at the Dole Cannery in ‘Iwilei, where he worked his way up to being a superintendent.
In 1958, he bought a Chevron station in Kane‘ohe and founded Lex Brodie’s Tire Company in 1961.
When he started selling tires in Kane‘ohe, he didn’t have room to store them, so he kept the extras in his garage at home, until customers started arriving there to buy them.
He moved the company to Kaka‘ako in 1964, where he became the first business to offer customers an enclosed waiting room with a TV, magazines and a phone.
During this time Brodie started filming his popular commercials that always ended with his slogan, “Thank you … very much.”
His son Sandy Brodie told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that Brodie’s focus was on making sure his customers were satisfied in order to build a base of return business.
He instructed employees to only sell what people needed and nothing more.
“His psychology for sales was different than most,” his son said.
It may have been unconventional, but sales took off and Brodie opened a second location in Waipahu in 1972. His business quickly expanded to five stores on O‘ahu and three stores on Hawai‘i.
Brodie started Small Business Hawai‘i in the mid-1970s to give small businesses a voice in the community and legislature.
In 1981, the Wall Street Journal featured Lex Brodie’s Tire Company in their Small Business section, where they cited Brodie’s outstanding customer service as the number one reason he captured a large share of the gas and tire market in Hawai‘i, according to the tire company’s website.
“I think the fact that Mr. Brodie could retire, and then his very high level of customer service could be built upon after he left is a true testament to the foundation that he laid,” said Scott Williams, the current president of Lex Brodie’s Tire Company in a Hawai‘i News Now story.
Brodie sold his tire company in 1990, but remained active in the community by leading a group of volunteers who pushed for safer conditions in public schools and served as campaign manager for Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris.
Then Brodie decided to run for the state Board of Education.
“He called me up one day and said, ‘I just spent $25 registering for the Board of Education election,’” his son said in a Midweek article. “He said, ‘I’m not going to spend any more money. I’m just going to wave a sign on Punchbowl.’ And that’s what he did.”
He was elected to the state Board of Education in 1992 and served until 2003. During his time on the school board, he made time to visit every public school in the entire state to find out about their most pressing issues.
He moved back to Kaua‘i after leaving the board.
Survivors included his wife, Evelyn; children Wendy and Gerry Pelligrini, Sandy and Lynn Brodie, Robert Brodie and Janet and Damon Teves; seven grandchildren, five great-granddaughters and one great-great grandson.
Private services will be held. Kaua‘i Memorial Gardens and Funeral Home are assisting the Brodie family with arrangements.
“We can say it our own way, but only Mr. Brodie can say ‘Thank you … very much’ like he did. So we don’t even try to copy that,” Williams said. “We just try to emulate the high level of customer service that he laid for us.”