SmallBiz Editor's Choice Awards 2014
Each year, Hawaii Business honors outstanding small businesses in five categories. Here are 2014’s winners.
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Owner: Harry D. Robello
Nominator: Donna Kojima, First Hawaiian Bank
By: Lee V. Gaines
Part of the team at Aloha Beach Services are, left to right above, Richie Desautel, owner Harry “Didi” Robello, Josh Silva, Tommy Faainvinu and Rony Faatau.
Photo: David Croxford
For Harry “Didi” Robello, keeping the Waikiki beach boy tradition alive and making sure his customers are safe in the process are his top priorities.
The headquarters for his company, Aloha Beach Services, is a wooden stand with a thatched roof surrounded by surfboards located between the Moana Surfrider and The Royal Hawaiian. From there, he and his team offer surfboard and paddleboard rentals, plus outrigger canoe rides, chartered canoe trips and surf lessons.
Owner Harry “Didi” Robello
Photo: David Croxford
“With the way he runs his business, he’s so authentic, very real,” says Donna Kojima, assistant VP and personal banking officer for First Hawaiian Bank.
“He’s just one of those guys you like and trust,” she says.
Robello’s father, Harry S. Robello, founded the family business in 1959 exactly where it stands today, after being introduced to the beach boy way of life more than two decades earlier.
Surfing has deep roots in the Robello family and Duke Kahanamoku was the brother of Robello’s grandfather. As a third-generation Kahanamoku and second-generation beach boy, Robello learned the ropes from his family. His first job on the beach was gofer, picking up trash and running errands for the other employees.
Robello says he applied for other jobs while in high school, but “they never did call me.” Today he suspects his father had a hand in that, telling his would-be employers he already had too much work to do on the beach.
But the hard work paid off and, in 1983, Robello took over the business from his father. His wife, Laurie, is the company’s bookkeeper, and Robello says he hopes his sons, Ryan, 24, and Shayne, 18, eventually join the family trade.
But things aren’t perfect in paradise. Robello worries about the influx of homeless people on the beach and the erosion of the beach boy tradition. He worries about too many surf stands and unqualified surf instructors.
All of Robello’s employees – the newest has been with the company for 10 years – are both certified surf instructors and licensed canoe operators, he says.
There needs to be more regulation, he says, and not enough “makes this place dangerous.”
“We want our guests to have a lot of fun and be safe at the same time.”
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