His best day, everyday

PRINCEVILLE — It’s no surprise that when John Ferry was honored as the North Shore Employer of the Year by the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, he gave credit to others.

“With all these talented people, they make me look good,” he said with a big smile on Thursday. “It’s all them.”

Ferry is president and founder of Coldwell Banker Bali Hai Realty, which he has been operating in the heart of Hanalei since 1978. 

Absolutely, he’s a sharp businessman, capable of crunching numbers with the best of them. He knows the real estate market, he knows all about sales and commissions, and making an offer and closing the deal. And while he has built and leads a thriving real estate company on the North Shore and clearly made his mark in the financial world, it’s not what he was praised for during club’s meeting at The St. Regis Princeville Resort.

No, when it came time to talk about Ferry, it was all about aloha, ohana, respect and love. He’s known for nurturing, guiding and encouraging. Because, for Ferry, success isn’t measured in dollars and sales.

Michael Schmidt, principal broker at Coldwell Banker Bali Hai Realty, said Ferry leaves no doubt that success comes from giving more than you take.

Success is “measured in how much you love this island, how much you value doing the best you can for your clients and their interests,” he said.

“John embodies giving back,” Schmidt said.

Ferry’s daughter, Moana, said her father has accomplished much, but remains a humble, generous man who loves Kauai and does his best to inspire his family and community.

“Thank you so much for being the rock and foundation of our family,” she said to her father as the crowd of about 50 people applauded.

About John Ferry

Born in Los Angeles on June 27, 1944, Ferry grew up working in the family concrete business in Glendale, Calif., where he was also a land surveyor. In 1967 on Christmas Day in Honolulu on his way to serve in Vietnam with the 32nd Medical Group is when Ferry first became enamored by Hawaii. He settled on Kauai in 1975.

He founded Bali Hai Reality in 1978 (a picture shows Ferry wearing a T-shirt and shorts, and holding oldest daughter, Sequoia, at the original office in Kapaa) and has been involved in property developments found at Anini Vista, Anini Beach, Hanalei, Kauapea, Kilauea and Wai Koa Plantation, previously known as Guava Kai. A house that Ferry and longtime friend and architect Stephen Devery built at Anini Beach received the American Institute of Architects House of the Year award for architecture.

“Perhaps it was his start in the concrete industry that gave him the unique insight on how to build a firm foundation, but one thing is for sure, John is a master builder. While inspirational in vision, his methodical approach allows him to see the whole canvas while working the details necessary to complete the picture,” reads his biography. “Whether building an architectural masterpiece, a successful business, a sustainable community, or a loving ohana, John was born and bred to be a part of and support a community who live and breathe the Hawaii lifestyle he embodies.”

He has been one of the founding members of the Kauai Public Land Trust and has served on its board for 15 years. Ferry has also served on the boards of the YMCA and the Wilcox Memorial Hospital Foundation and received an award for restoring the Kilauea Plantation Stone Dam from the Kauai Historical Society and most recently assisted in restoring the Sen. Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse and Hanalei Pier.

Ferry and Bali Hai Realty have also cleaned the highway between Kilauea Town and Anini Road for 30 years. His iconic 1948 International Woody is usually parked in front of his office in Hanalei.

Ferry lives in Hanalei with his wife, Corki. He loves spending time with his five children and three grandchildren. John is an avid athlete, having competed in triathlons, marathons and ocean adventure races, and he loves to ski.

“John’s passion for the people and land of Kauai is legendary on the island. Everywhere John Ferry goes, there is aloha. He is respected and loved by the local residents for his generosity and his sense of community,” the biography states.

Work excellence

Lois Lutz has worked with Ferry for 16 years at Bali Hai Realty. He is all about excellence and professionalism with “fun and aloha,” she said.

He’s the one everyone looks up to in the office, she said. He’s the one they go to for advice and guidance. At the same time, Ferry cares and values each of his agents and employees.

“He appreciates and supports the ideas and talents we all have individually,” Lutz said. “To him, we truly are his ohana.”

She said Ferry lives by two sayings: “Everyday is a gift,” and, “Today is the best day of my life.”

His positive attitude, she said, is infectious.

“One of my favorite things about John is his positivity,” she said. “Just ask him how he’s doing and his response is always, ‘Best day of my life.’”

Lutz said Ferry was well deserving of the North Shore Employer of the Year Award, which was given “in recognition of his outstanding leadership and contributions to the people and the business community on the North Shore of Kauai.”

While he receives recognition for some of his acts — donations to United Way, Habitat for Humanity, lighthouse restoration or any number of nonprofits — there are countless other acts of kindness that no one knows about.

“For as long as I’ve known him, it seems his life’s mission has been to give back to his community,” she said. “He has always stressed to us we must help our community whether it’s monetarily or sweat equity, just give back.”

Robert Dickstein, publicity chairman for the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, said Ferry and his staff model the Rotarians famous Four-Way Test: Is it the truth, is it fair to all concerned, will it build goodwill and better friendships, and will it be beneficial to all concerned?

“Nobody applies it better than Bali Hai ohana,” Dickstein said.

Giving back

When he finally rose and took the microphone and stood behind the podium, the first thing Ferry did was praise the Rotary Club for its efforts to save and restore the Hanalei Pier.

“It’s an amazing thing you’ve done,” he said. “You’re always taking the initiative. It’s so fun to watch.”

Ferry explained his philosophy by simply noting he has received many blessings in his life on Kauai and wants to give back.

He recalled finding some money when he first came to Kauai as he and others were picking up trash along the highway.

“I think it was a reward for taking care of the island,” he said, chuckling.

But money has never been what drives Ferry. He said he was grateful to those he works with, and praised Schmidt, “He’s an amazing man, as honest as they come,” office manager Ruth Marvin, “Just amazing. I call her Swiss clock,” and Lutz, “I couldn’t do it without her.”

Ferry spoke from the heart as he wrapped up his time in the spotlight.

“It’s one big family, we watch out for everybody,” he said. “I’m so glad I get to have all my family here today. Thank you very much for the honor.”

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