Ross Yamashita’s HPM Career Spans Half a Century

When Ross Yamashita started working as a warehouse clerk in HPM's Kona store in 1973, Gerald Ford was president, George Ariyoshi became acting governor, and "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree" was the number one song in the U.S.

And in West Hawaii, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in South Kohala and Hotel King Kamehameha in Kailua-Kona were the undisputed top resort destinations on Hawaii Island. 

"I got people telling me they weren't even born when I started working," Ross said with a chuckle. Consider also that when Ross first began, the store in Mauka Kona was then called Captain Cook Building Supply and that he's now helped the branch move twice in Kailua-Kona. 

When asked if he thought he would still be here after all these years, he of course, can't believe it. After a four-year stint in the Military, Ross was hanging out at home on a Monday. Then, his dad called, a then employee of Captain Cook Building Supply (CCBS), asking him to come in on Friday to meet the boss. That following Monday, Ross started a career that would span five decades. The longest of any employee in HPM's 101-year history. 


Ross with members of the HPM Kona team a few years ago

Though, his story didn't start there. Ross's dad worked at CCBS for over 20 years, most of Ross' childhood. Back then, CCBS was in the lumber business and, therefore, casket making. Ross's dad drove the hearse, transporting the deceased from South Kona to Hilo, the only place to do autopsies at the time. 

Sometimes that involved driving across the old saddle road, a treacherous, bumpy, and windy drive, or through Ka'u, an equally long and windy adventure. 

"We always wanted to go with dad. Especially if we stop at Kress Store!" He says.

Today, Ross works in contractor sales, putting him in close contact with top building industry executives for whom he provides estimates and quotes on windows, doors, and lumber products. At one point, Ross considered accepting a similar position at a big-box retailer when it first opened in West Hawaii. However, he eventually chose to stay at HPM and said he's glad he did. 

"I think we deal with our customers in a more personable way," Ross said. 


“I’ll know what they want and what they need. We know our customers and we know our products. The contractors I deal with, they come to me all the time so I know exactly what they’re looking for.”


In his opinion, working closely with the contractors over time, you become a part of their business and invested in their success.
Despite his many years of service as an owner-employee, Ross says he's never wanted to be a manager and is happy doing what he does now. However, he believes HPM has been able to thrive for as long as it has because "we have a good management crew. They know how to run a company. If not, this company would have gone broke a long time ago." 

Having been with HPM for the last five decades, Ross has watched the West Hawaii region's once-wide swaths of open space fill up with businesses, residential neighborhoods, and hotels. And he's been able to track the company's role in that development. 

"I can remember certain areas where there was just bare land, and through the years, we've seen all these businesses and houses coming up," he said. Ross said that when he and his wife travel around the region, they still find new buildings popping up. Sometimes, he'll point to them, look at them with wonderment, and in a matter-of-factually way, tell her, "we supplied the materials for that building." 

That growth has been, in his opinion, the most significant change he's seen in his time here. 

"We didn't even have Waimea at the time." The 3rd store of HPM's now 17 locations. HPM Building Supply spans all main Hawaiian Islands, with a distribution center in Washington State.

These days, there is nothing Ross is looking forward to more than retirement (at the end of the year) and his Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP)

Bobby Fujimoto established HPM's employee profit-sharing plan back in 1959, and expanded in 2006 when we became 100% employee-owned — a distinction held by only .00008% of all U.S. companies! Employees receive stock contributions to their accounts each eligible year through our Employee Stock Ownership Plan. At 5 years, you become fully vested. 

Ross's advice to new owners starting out, "don't quit; stay at least five years!" with a chuckle. All jokes aside, his perseverance, positivity, and integrity have made him a fixture in Kona and the company.


Ross holding a giant ticket to a Mediterranean Cruise

To honor Ross and his incredible achievement, HPM is checking off an item from Ross' bucket list. An all-expenses paid, Mediterranean cruise for him and his wife. We hope this token of appreciation makes his retirement sweeter. 

More Like This


Rising Above as a Community - HPM Maui

The island of Maui knows what resiliency and strength looks like. Since coming to Maui in 2020, HPM Building Supply has always supported the people


Locally owned, locally grown: HPM Kauaʻi

For nearly 13 years, HPM Building Supply has been an integral part of the building community on Kauaʻi. From new home builds to renovations of


HPM Building Supply Expands to Lāna‘i with a New Retail Store and Lumberyard Opening April 2024

HPM Building Supply is pleased to announce the opening of a new retail store and a convenient drive-through lumberyard on the island of Lānaʻi this

HPM Building Supply

Maui Wildfire Resources

HPM is committed to supporting our Maui community during this challenging time. 

We are grateful we have been able to reopen ourLāhainā Retail Store