KAPAA — Luis Soltren can tell you exactly how many complaints have been filed against him during his 30-plus years in construction.
“I’ve had difficult clients, but I deal with them appropriately. I deal with them with the truth. I deal with them with the contract. And I deal with them by the book,” said Soltren, general contractor for Luis and Eddie Soltren Construction. “I don’t overly try to punish anyone who tries to hurt me. I accept a lot of what I get as a lesson to me and I think that’s what helps me.”
Soltren is on the shortlist of small businesses nominated for Hawaii’s Better Business Bureau 2017 Torch Award, given to recipients that demonstrate a commitment to fair, honest and ethical business practices.
“Honesty is the most important aspect in his line of work,” he said.
“A lot of guys will give you a price and change it as the job gets going. You don’t give them a low price in the beginning to get the job and once you get in the door, you give them another price. That’s difficult for a lot of people.
“I’ll give you an honest price in the beginning. If you can’t afford it, I’ll try to work with you. Ninety percent of the time we’re successful. We complete it and everybody’s happy.”
Originally from Puerto Rico and raised in New York, the 64-year-old Kapaa resident is honored to be nominated.
“It helps me to show my children what I’ve always preached: If you’re honest and you stand up for yourself and you respect yourself, you’ll always be a winner,” he said. “When people know you’re honest and when people know you’re thinking the right way, they’re always going to back you.”
Paulo Preitauer, general contractor for Preitauer Construction, said Soltren is like a second father and mentor to him.
“I’ve been working with Luis off and on for quite a few years. My dad is a general contractor — Ohana Builders — and they used to work together back about 30 years ago,” he said. “He’s helped me get my license. I remember my dad, Brad Preitauer, helped him get his license some 34 years ago. It’s come full circle now.”
Soltren’s giving nature has also inspired others, Preitauer said.
“I feel like a lot of people on the island feel the same,” he said. “Every job that we do, he always gives a little extra and goes a little further of what’s normal.”
Soltren is responsible for helping people be the best and help themselves and take the next step when sometimes it’s scary to take something new, Preitauer added.
“He’s taught me how to handle working with people and what people expect from a contractor and for me to do my duty in a timely manner,” he said, “and do what I’m going to say I’m going to do.”
Mike Gushiken, owner of Garden Island Sheet Metal, has worked with Soltren for almost 15 years.
“He’s as good as they come. Luis is up there with the best,” he said. “He’s fair and I know he’s looking into the client’s best interest. That’s always a good thing for a contractor and that’s what I always strive for myself.”
But Soltren said he wasn’t always the person he is.
“I was a young man at one time, and I was reckless and I was misguided. And that’s why I reach out to these young guys that I’m teaching,” he said. “I want them to know that they can have a good life, they can have a good future and things can be really good to you, but you have to be honest. You cannot be fake. Fake is discovered and uncovered right away.”
Kathy Northcutt, one of Soltren’s clients, has known him for almost 20 years.
“Luis Soltren is impeccable. He’s a man of integrity. He’s a man of his word. He’s a man of honesty. He has strength of character. He has courage. He has huge creativity,” she said. “Even if things sideways, Luis knows how to make it work because he’s just that good a builder.”
After two years of building Northcutt’s house, which includes 11 bathrooms and two kitchens, Soltren received word that some of her family decided against moving into the home.
“I was like, ‘Luis, what am I going to do?’ And he was like, ‘No problem. We’re going to redesign this house on the fly,’” she said. “And he did. Not many people could have done that with no notice.”