Island History: Wayne Ellis and Hale Kauai

Before founding Hale Kauai in 1945 with partners Sam Wilcox and William Moragne of Grove Farm, San Jose State graduate Wayne Ellis (1915-1991) had taught technical arts at Kauai High School and had also managed the Lihue Hotel, owned by his father-in-law, former Kauai Sheriff William Henry Rice.

Sheriff Rice’s hotel was situated on Rice Street about where the banyan trees stand at Kalapaki Villas.

Hands-on partner Ellis opened his first Hale Kauai retail store in the one-time Lydgate family residence at the back of the Lydgate estate on Rice Street.  

The store carried woodcarvings, sporting goods, small appliances and records, and provided electrical wiring services.  

A year later, Ellis moved his business into a new building on the front portion of the Lydgate property, a site currently occupied by the Transportation Security Administration.

By 1954, he’d expanded his selection of retail merchandize to include major appliances, paints, and hardware, and had purchased Lihue Store’s milling and lumber operations in Nawiliwili.

Ready-mix concrete and concrete block manufacturing were added to Hale Kauai’s product line during the 1960s.  

Then, in 1974, the retail store was relocated from Rice Street to a brand new building at Papalinahoa on property that was once the location of sugar planter George Wilcox’s (1839-1933) beach house.       

The building is now the home of the Kauai Athletic Club.

Hale Kauai’s lumber and concrete block operations were centralized behind its Papalinahoa store in 1975.

It also operated corrugated roofing and wood pressure treatment plants and another retail store in Koloa.

In the 1980s, Wayne Ellis’ son, Rick, became president of Hale Kauai. His son, Michael, headed the company following Rick’s retirement in 2002.

Between 2003 and 2005, Hale Kauai liquidated its building supply business through sales and closures and became a real estate investment and development firm.

Wayne and Helen Rice Ellis also had a daughter, Helen.


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