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HPM celebrates 95 years of biz with $3M renovation

December 16, 2016 - 5:21pm
An earlier version misstated the stores 2017 hours. On Sundays in 2017, it will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

KAILUA-KONA — For 95 years, HPM Building Supply has remained a family run business.

And keeping a commercial operation humming with your kin takes foresight to evolve and a willingness to adapt as times and markets change.

Keeping family members interested in the same business generation after generation is no easy task, but the Fujimoto family seems to have the building genes to keep the torch going for nearly a century.

“My great-grandfather started the business in 1921,” said Mike Fujimoto, Chairman and CEO of HPM, reflecting on the near century of business recently. “He was a builder in the East Hawaii area. He built plantation housing and commercial buildings in downtown Hilo. One day, a couple of friends decided to sell their old planing mill and that’s where the business got its name. HPM stands for Hawaii Planing Mill.

Fujimoto took over the company in 1992 as the president and fourth generation CEO. And by family business, they really mean family business.

“In 1977 we created our ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan), and in 2006 we evolved from a family owned company to a 100 percent employee-owned company, “ said Fujimoto. “Today we’re still a family company, except we have about 300 members in our family. We’re truly a locally owned and operated company. Nothing can describe that better than HPM. We are owned by employees, and all the employees live here on the islands.”

HPM recently celebrated their longevity by giving their Kona location a $3 million renovation inside and out.

In 2000, the local building industry’s demand for a high volume, no-frills exchange of goods and services drove the decision to set up shop on Luhia Street. The 37,000-square foot warehouse sits on 7 acres of land on land Queen Liliuokalani Trust set aside for industrial development on Luhia Street. Now the once quiet area is home to Kona Commons — a major retail center.

But growth aside, keeping the company tight with the Big Island community is always their top priority.

Tyler Dickinson, of Dickinson General Contracting, is one of HPM’s regular customers and said he appreciates the availability of products and helpful staff members.

“The nice thing about HPM’s new store is it has everything for the professional builder or home-owner,” said Dickinson. “They’re not just a lumberyard. They have all the new tools and any kind of specialty hardware that I need. Their staff is very responsive which is nice.”

HPM experienced and survived many ups and downs over the past 95 years, and Fujimoto contributes much of their success to good fortune and the support of the island community.

It started In Hilo, but it’s been 57 years since HPM began serving the needs of West Hawaii. It also has locutions on Oahu and Kauai.

“Our success has a lot to do with luck, as we’ve been through some very difficult times,” Fujimoto said. “The company was born in 1921, and the Great Depression was in 1929. We also survived the company being taken over by the U.S. Navy during World War II. Back then lumber and building materials were considered by the US government to be strategic material for war, and the military during wartime had special powers. Then after the 1946 tsunami in Hilo wiped out half of the business, we rebuilt and relocated to a new facility in 1955.”

In spite of such an eventful and colorful history, HPM continues to thrive today as a valuable part of the Big Island community. Fujimoto believes giving back to the community, and the dedication of HPM employees, are two main reasons for the company’s success.

‘Do-it-yourself’ home-owner and retail customer, Lisa Biedenkapp, is grateful for the knowledgeable staff as well as the new aesthetics of the store.

“The Kona store staff is always helpful, and now the store looks so beautiful too,” said Biedenkapp.

That community feel is why the company invested in improving its West Hawaii presence, which is open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Starting in January, the store will open Sundays 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“The community is very important to us,” said Fujimoto. “We feel very blessed and grateful to have had the support of the community all these years. … Our remodel is a way to thank the community and our family of employees. We look forward to providing an even higher level of service to the community.”

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