LAHAINA - Forty-four years ago, three young, ambitious waiters at the old Black Rock Terrace Steak House at the Sheraton Maui recognized a need in West Maui's business landscape.
They put their heads together and launched a small carpet installation business, Lahaina Carpet Company, in 1969.
Cliff McQueen, former owner of McQueen's Interiors in Hollywood, had experience in interior design and carpet.
The other partners, Doug Poseley and Dave Byars, arrived from California in 1966 with "extensive background" in water sports and golf, joked Byars, today the owner and president.
"Actually, Cliff and I started laying carpet together, and Doug joined up with me when Cliff opened his own furniture store on Maui and later went on to real estate fame."
Their warehouse was located in the old cannery with Ole Surfboards, Christina's Laundry and Raden Boats before the building was torn down and rebuilt as Lahaina Cannery Mall.
"Our office was located in Doug's house on Wahikuli Road and consisted of a desk, phone, file cabinet and a dog named Puka," Byars recalled.
McQueen recommended carpet installation tools the fledgling company needed to order, and they researched "how-to-install-carpet" texts at the library.
"Equipped with our tools, a little knowledge and more than a little ignorance, every morning we swung each carpet roll back and further with a block and tackle over our red Ford Econoline pickup until it was over the back of the truck, kept our fingers crossed... and off we went," said Byars.
"If we had any idea of what we were up against, we probably would have gone back to waiting tables and collecting tips."
Some of their first accounts were on Lanai. They didn't have the money to fly over, so they made the crossing in a 12-foot Boston Whaler loaded with their tools.
"A quick call in the morning to our customer on Lanai from the pay phone located at the Pioneer Inn would give us our report on how the water looked. If the answer was 'pretty calm,' we embarked," Byars noted.
As Maui grew, Lahaina Carpet Company's commercial and residential accounts increased along with their knowledge and expertise. Soon, they were busier than they ever anticipated.
"In the late '70s, weary with physical demands of laying carpet and wanting to better balance our labors, Doug and I moved the operation to its present location at Limahana Place and began selling carpet," Byars explained.
"In the '80s, we added a larger showroom, rather than continue to show samples and sell carpets - out of our cars! We also added more staff to keep up with Maui's continuing commercial and residential growth and demands for decorating services."
In 1999, Poseley retired to pursue his land development - and old water sports - interests. Byars assumed sole ownership of the business, which became Lahaina Carpet & Interiors.
"We weren't just about carpet anymore," he said.
The 1990s brought more tremendous growth and change for the company, with more expansion to the showroom and staff.
"While we still represent major carpet mills from all over the country - including several exclusive lines - and have a wide selection of stock carpet, we offer beautiful hardwood and laminate flooring as well as vinyl. Our large upholstery and window treatment design areas have become just as significant to our business as flooring," Byars said.
"We have a wide selection of special window treatments and proud to be a Hunter Douglas Gallery Dealer. As well as Hunter Douglas, we also have selections of Horizon and Alta, to name a few, as well as custom drapery. Our retail upholstery and drapery fabric showroom is the largest on Maui, and our two experienced, full-time upholsterers give fast and expert service, whether they're creating new cushion covers or cornice boxes to top off those special window treatments."
Lahaina Carpet & Interiors is also a dealer for Insolroll, Skandia, Castec and Kathy Ireland. For flooring, the business carries several manufacturers, including Mohawk, Beaulieu, Royalty and Shaw, with several in-house brands in stock. There is also a large selection of wood, laminate and vinyl planks.
In the showroom, customers can see and operate the various window treatments, touch the carpet choices and choose from thousands of fabric samples.
As Lahaina Carpet & Interiors closes in on its 45th anniversary, the showroom at 1036 Limahana Place, Suite 3L, was showing its age.
The building was recently painted; new awning, windows and signage were installed; and fresh foliage was planted in the flower troughs.
Indoors, the staff spruced up the displays, added some new ones and installed new carpeting and upholstery.
Lahaina Carpet's staff includes Darla Phillips, David Paulson, Lisa Hensser-Langello, Ale Campbell, Mala Nestark, Jeff Lewis and Aldrin Benito, as well as highly experienced flooring and window installation crews. Byars is proud of his team.
"Our sales staff is knowledgeable, attentive, offers free design advice and goes the extra mile to take good and honest care of all customers from the start to finish of any project, big or small," he said. "We're proud to offer our customers great value, not just great prices."
The company has come a long way since the late 1960s, when three young waiters teamed up to lay carpet.
"Long ago, the tips may have been good while waiting tables, but to me, the daily satisfaction of serving generations of Maui's families and businesses, and following through on that commitment is an every greater reward," Byars concluded.