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Sunday, September 9, 2001



art
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Left to right, Joe Kindrich, Guy Hicks, Sharon Hicks
and Julie Kinhult posed recently with a photo of
the founder of Hicks Homes, Harold Hicks.



Founder’s kin helped
save Hicks Homes

BUILDING TRADITION


B.J. Reyes / breyes@starbulletin.com

To Harold Hicks, the concept seemed simple enough: If people could walk into a department store and pick out a refrigerator, or go to a car lot and select the automobile of their choice, why not offer housing the same way?

"He wanted to be able to have people come to a contractor and say, 'I'll take that design,'" said Hicks' daughter, Sharon. "The concept became so popular -- my father told stories of people coming with jars of money."

They don't come with jars of money anymore, but almost a half-century after Harold Hicks started manufacturing and selling pre-designed homes, his family is still housing Hawaii's families.

Today, there are more than 16,000 Hicks Homes in Hawaii, mostly on Oahu, and the company's product line has grown to include custom housing and some commercial projects.

"I have people wanting to build with us because we are a family," Sharon Hicks said. "We're a family, and we're going to take care of their family, and they like that concept ... that we're not a fly-by-night company, that we're rooted in Hawaii and we're going to be here."

It was Sharon Hicks who made sure the company would remain a viable business here.

Her father, who founded the company in 1954, died in 1967, leaving the company's stock in trust to his wife and two children. It wasn't until 1981 that Sharon Hicks first sought to gain control of the faltering company. She finally acquired the presidency in 1989, beginning the turnaround of a company that hadn't made a profit in years.

Help came from three of her four children -- Joe Kindrich, 33, the company's current president; Guy Hicks, 31, lead carpenter and on-site supervisor; and Julie Kinhult, 36, construction manager. Sharon handles sales. Her other daughter, Cyndy Kahalewale, 37, works as a dietitian.

With a total work force of 11 people, the company has managed to stay profitable by adapting to industry changes in areas such as home design and building materials.

That the company has thrived through three generations in a business climate known to be tougher on smaller enterprises is a testament to the Hicks' business sense and family unity, one observer said.

"I would say it's less common today" to see family-run businesses succeed, said Sam Slom, president of Small Business Hawaii. "In order to stay competitive, you have to find new ways of doing it."

But Slom, who is also state Senate minority leader, said small-business owners are willing to endure heavy taxes and government regulation to remain close to Hawaii's culture and established friendships.

Kindrich, who went to college on the mainland, agreed.

"Sure, we could all go to the mainland and get paid a lot more," Kindrich said, "but we just wouldn't have the benefits. This is our home. This is where we plan to stay, and stay in business for a long time."

Colorful, crayon-created signs that decorate the family's Kaneohe office are a sign of yet another generation of potential entrepreneurs.

Kindrich said he's already feeling the pressure from his sister's children, who say they want his job, mostly because he doesn't have a boss.

"They like what we do," he said.


Hicks Homes at a glance

A third-generation family business that makes and sells pre-designed homes; it also does custom homes and commercial projects.

>> Founded: 1954, by Harold and Carolyn Hicks, as Hicks Construction Co.
>> Headquarters: Kaneohe.
>> Internet: www.hickshomeshawaii.com
>> A family affair: Harold Hicks died in 1967 and his daughter, Sharon Hicks, acquired the presidency of the company in 1989. Current management includes three of her four children -- Joe Kindrich, 33, president; Guy Hicks, 31, lead carpenter and on-site supervisor; and Julie Kinhult, 36, construction manager. Sharon Hicks handles sales.




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