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City Mill Co., Ltd.

Company:City Mill Co., Ltd.
Address:660 N. Nimitz Hwy Honolulu, HI 96817
Year Founded:1899
Number of Full-time Employees:314
Overview:City Mill Co., Ltd. was founded in 1899 and is today a Hawaii-based private and family owned and operated 8-store hardware retail company located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Organizationally, it consists of a 7-person senior management group, a corporate administrative support staff, a unionized Distribution Center and 8 retail stores, each with its complement of management and hourly team members. Product inventory includes Hardware, Tools, Plumbing, Electrical, Paint, Furniture, Housewares, Storage, Lighting, Garden, Lumber and Building Materials. In 2005, City Mill represented the 129th largest company in Hawaii with total sales of $65 million. On a national level, it represents the 208 largest hardware-home improvement center in the U.S. Brief historical outline of the business (including how the company got started): In 1899, City Mill started as a lumber importing and rice milling company by Chung Kun Ai, known to his friends as C. K., a young immigrant from China. He came to Hawaii in 1879 at the age of 14 years from Canton, China. He worked for businessman James I. Dowsett and continued until DowsettOs death in 1898. The first City Mill was located in Kekaulike Street in Chinatown. C.K. Ai started the new enterprise with his personal savings and from friends who bought stock in the start up company. In 1900 when the company was just eight months old, the bubonic plague hit Honolulu and the Board of Health ordered the burning of all buildings in the infested area in order to contain the spread of the disease. City Mill was not in the earmarked area, but the wind shifted and spread the fire City Mill was destroyed with no insurance to cover the fire damage. Based on his name and reputation, C. K. Ai again had to go to his friends to invest more money to rebuild the company. During the 1920Os City Mill purchased a 5-masted schooner OThe VigilantO in Hoquaim, Washington, to carry its lumber from the Pacific Northwest to Hawaii. As the largest schooner to ply the Pacific, it carried 2,000,000 board feet of lumber on each trip to Hawaii. In the early 1920Os City Mill was also in the pineapple business, with the Honolulu Fruit Company, which had 5 pineapple fields and a cannery. It did not survive the Great Depression of the 1930Os. Prior to World War II, City Mill had the largest rice mill in Hawaii. It was the advent of that war which forced City Mill to abandon its rice operation and concentrate on providing construction materials for the armed forces and civilians. By the warOs end, City Mill emerged as one of the largest building materials suppliers in the Pacific. Prior to 1950, City Mill was in the home planning, building supplies and lumber planing business. Then in 1950, City Mill opened its first retail store on Nimitz Highway, which was then called OOld Prison Road.O David Ai managed this new retail division, while his sister, Esther Chong continued to manage the wholesale division. The first branch store opened in Kaneohe in 1960. In 1980, City Mill closed its wholesale division after 81 years of operation. The 1990Os saw a new generation of Ai family members continue to expand, with the opening of the Hawaii Kai and Mililani stores in 1993, and Waianae store in 1999, despite a depressed local economy. In 1998, the company changed its pricing strategy to everyday value pricing with the OPriced Right Everyday!O program, added 10,000 items, reset the stores to make shopping more customer friendly, and continued to look for additional branch stores. The company is exploring various store sizes and formats and is changing the nature of its distribution methods to encompass more partnering. It is estimated that City Mill has employed over 40,000 local people during the last 100 years. Furthermore, the company has served as a training ground for many other retailers and home improvement specialists in the community such as: John Grinnon Company, Atlas Building Materials, Midpac Lumber, SlimOs Power Tools, Moreia Tile, RMA Sales,
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Map:Click to map the location of City Mill Co., Ltd.