Member Spotlight: Hamai Appliance

Written by Rob Stott

March 6, 2024

Tragic situations have a strange way of bringing out the absolute best in people. Over two decades ago, we witnessed hundreds of public servants run in the direction of two burning skyscrapers in an effort to save as many lives as possible — even if it meant selflessly sacrificing their own.

Within the Independent retail community, we’ve seen a number of different situations play out over the past several years where tragedy struck a community only to have the local businesses step up to support those most in need. Back in 2019, we saw the Members of this group show up in a major way to provide for one of their own when Hudson’s Appliance Center was reduced to ashes because of the Paradise wildfires. In the years since, this community has packed more than 2 million meals to support hungry kids and their families. Hygiene kits have been sent across the globe to people impacted by natural disasters. There’s regular aid provided to hurricane relief efforts in Florida.

The list goes on.

While we were gathered in Nashville this past August, news was circulating, and efforts were underway to support those left devastated by the unforgiving wildfires that struck numerous communities on the island of Maui in Hawaii.

But for one of our own — Hamai Appliance — they witnessed the impacts firsthand.

“It was real dramatic and mentally exhausting,” Bryant Hamai, president of Hamai Appliance, told us on a recent Independent Thinking Podcast episode. “It was just traumatic just to see everything that’s happening. Of course, everyone sees it on social media. As time progressed, we started hearing more and more from friends and family, from customers who had firsthand experience of seeing some things, and a lot of it was pretty graphic.”

The fires burned over 2,170 acres of land on the island, claiming more than 2,000 homes and roughly 115 lives. It will go down as one of the three deadliest wildfires in this history of our country.

It’s not something that the community will get over any time soon, let alone what it’ll take to rebuild out of the ashes. But Hamai himself is a prime example of the promise that the future holds for the region. From the night his family was evacuated from their home to their continued efforts today to help their island mates pick themselves up, his dedication continues to inspire. His commitment to the community is apparent, and his positive attitude is incredibly infectious to those around him.

Those core values, which also flow through the Hamai Appliance business, are just a way of life in Hawaii. Out there in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a literal island, the community is incredibly tightknit and have each others’ backs.

“As tragic as everything was, I think most people would say the coolest thing, the most beautiful thing that happened out of all of this is just to see how fast the community stood up. No one is even thinking about anything, they’re just doing, they’re reaching out,” Hamai says. “I mean, people were driving boats around the fire area to drop off supplies. Neighboring islands were driving boats over and just rallying up whatever supplies that you had that could help. People were trying to make an effort just to see whatever they could do. That was really nice to see. And it’s still continuing. A lot of the local chefs are preparing food, and everyone is just really just shifting gears to try to help out the community. It’s really nice.”


Hamai himself, along with the support of his team, pulled together a number of resources to help with the early recovery efforts. That first night, in addition to opening the store — which has a dozen mattresses on display — to his family, he helped some displaced friends get a night’s rest. He pulled together partnerships with Serta Simmons and Protect-A-Bed to get a few hundred mattresses donated to shelters.

Hamai Appliance closed its doors for a day in order to host meal and supply kit packing events with No Child Hungry and local Boy Scout troops and youth sports groups.

“A lot of families were just taking in additional people, and they might not have had adequate places to sleep, they’re sleeping on garage floors,” Hamai says. “And that was consistent with the entire community. They were just trying help out in one way or another — whatever things that you could do to help and just leverage your partners and just try to help out. But there were so many things that were happening, and I think that was just natural for us to try to reach out and see what we could do, if we could do anything.”

Hamai also hosted events for families to come in and get fresh-cooked meals from local chefs — opportunities that were as much about the food as they were about coming together and spending some time thinking about anything but the difficulties they were facing.

And even as business continued over the ensuing weeks, they’d find ways to help those who were coming in to purchase product.

“We try to say it’s business as usual, but we’re mindful of how certain families, they’re buying things for a specific need,” he says. “We try to fact—find a little bit more. And if it turns out to be a situation where they lost their home or they’re in a temporary place with a family member or whatnot, we try our best to help out with further discounts one way or another. A lot of people who took delivery of appliances, maybe within the past year, are now coming back in to get a replacement. We’re like, ’Hey, you were just here.’ We try our best to help them out with maybe their extended warranty that they already bought or whatnot. One way or another, we’ll try to find a discount, whether it’s a free delivery or a discount on the product.”


The community-first mindset has defined Hamai Appliance since their doors first opened in 1969. Founded by Bryant’s grandfather and grandmother, Lester and Clara Hamai, the business — much like the community that it serves — has always put an emphasis on people and service. And that’s where Hamai believes the family-run outfit has a major advantage over the corporatized Big Box businesses that try to come into town.

“We’re still a small business, still a small island, so word of mouth travels a long way,” he says. “And we’ve always been involved with the community. Customer service has always been a big emphasis with us. The servicing side has always been a very important part of our business. To me, it’s our big competitive advantage over the Box stores. And servicing in general has always been difficult on Maui. For us to offer that, the brands that we sell, we feel like it needs to be serviceable, and we’re always trying to put a focus on the training for the repair.”

Of course, over time, the business itself has evolved to better meet the needs of the neighbors it serves. When it first opened, Hamai’s was mainly an electronics store, selling TVs and stereos. Bryant’s early days in the business saw him and his cousins come in to help their parents during special sales events, competing with one other to see who could sell more. “From what I remember, I think I would usually come out the highest salesperson,” he recalls, with a wry smile.

Today, Hamai’s serves all areas of the home, including standard and luxury appliances, outdoor, electronics, bedding and more. Technology has streamlined most areas of the store as well, through the use of digital price tags, iPad displays and more. All improvements, Bryant notes, that have been made to further engage their customers and improve and enhance that in— store experience. In addition, they find themselves doing more business with contractors, property managers and home builders.

Most of the changes have been made over the past decade, as Bryant and his cousin Kelii started to transition into leadership roles in the company, ultimately becoming president and vice president, respectively.

“My move back to Maui happened in 2012. I was previously living in the Bay Area, working in business banking and some investment banking,” Bryant says. “My dad, Clyde, was thinking about trying to scale back a little bit and he was thinking about his retirement so that’s where the succession plan came into play.”

Upon moving home — something he admits he never felt forced to do — Bryant and Kelii were able to dive headfirst into the business and soak in a ton of knowledge from Clyde, who still remains involved in the store to this day.

“To come back and have that opportunity to learn the business and still be able to come on in and run the company, I’m very grateful but also realize that we’ve been very lucky,” Bryant says. “My dad has always been so involved, so I think it must be difficult to try to pass that on and accept change. Business now is a lot different than it was back then, I can imagine, with the new technologies and whatnot. But, overall, I believe he was confident in myself, my cousins and the rest of my family. He’s been able to teach us as best as he could. We can thrive off of that and implement our new strategies and practices, and hopefully we can continue to grow.”

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