Story by Sarah Ruppenthal
“When your name is on the door, it’s important to be a good member of the community,” says Clyde Hamai.
After a decades-long career as an appliance salesman for Alexander & Baldwin Commercial in Kahului, 50-year-old Lester Hamai decided to open his own store. It was a bold move that raised quite a few eyebrows — leaving a steady job to start a business from scratch at any age is inherently risky, but at 50? “People called him crazy, but he was ready to chase the American dream,” says his son, Clyde.
Hamai and his wife, Clara, opened Hamai Appliance in 1969, and in the early days, family members comprised the majority of the employees. Everyone pitched in to load delivery trucks, stock shelves and even wrap gifts for customers during the holidays. Grandson Bryant Hamai recalls spending countless hours roaming the store, marveling at the rows of shiny new machines, and playfully shadowing his aunties and uncles as they worked in the warehouse.
For the first 25 years, the store sold and serviced just two brands — Panasonic and General Electric — the brands with which Hamai had a familiarity and a rapport. Regardless of the limited selection, Hamai Appliance led the way as technology evolved. They were one of the first stores on Maui to sell “newfangled gadgets” such as fax machines, four-channel stereos, VCRs and camcorders, and in the ’70s, Hamai Appliance hosted cooking classes to teach customers how to use the latest, greatest technology — the microwave oven.
Today, the store is an appliance-lover’s dream, with just about every kitchen and laundry machine imaginable, outdoor grills, vacuum cleaners and air conditioners. In 2010, the Hamais even added mattresses to their roster, renovating a section of the store to become MattressLand. They have long left behind their two-brand beginnings and now service and sell brands such as Sub-Zero, Wolf, Monogram, Fisher & Paykel, Bosch, Thermador and Maytag.
Lester Hamai passed away in 1986, but Hamai Appliance continues to be a thriving family endeavor. His son, Clyde, is the current CEO and his grandsons, Bryant and Garret, serve as president and vice president, respectively. The business is still a leader, too, especially as it relates to community: For more than 40 years, Hamai Appliance sponsored the Lester Hamai Memorial Women’s Golf Tournament, one of the first women’s-only golf tournaments on Maui, and raised more than $100,000 for local nonprofits; The Hamais regularly pitch in to pack meals for thousands of food-insecure children and support a number of youth organizations including the Boy Scouts of America; and in 2020, Hamai Appliance teamed up with a local food truck business to serve hundreds of lunches to healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
Despite all the changes in inventory, trends and product, one thing has remained constant for Hamai Appliance: Earning and keeping their customers’ trust. “Trust is created and maintained when you can show that you stand behind the product that you sell,” Clyde Hamai explains. “Trust is further created when you follow through with what you promise, and I always believe that it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver.”
HamaiAppliance.com | 332 East Wakea Avenue, Kahului | 808.877.6305 | FB @Hamai-Appliance