The Guy Who Never Changed-- Richard Cunningham

When Richard showed up in long pants, you knew something was up.  Lorraine introduced Richard as our vocational speaker for this month.  From an early age, Richard was drawn to three things that he still does today-- woodworking, tennis, and entrepreneurship.  Now in his 40th year in business, Richard graced us with his humor and words of wisdom.
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Born and raised in the LA area, Richard found a job after college that combined customer relations and wood working. He discovered that he had a strength in visual arts-- taking something and making it look better. He followed his girlfriend to Japan and learned the language decently. From Japan he moved to Honolulu where he worked for Martin & MacArthur for two years.
 
That inner desire to be self-employed kept calling. Honolulu was too expensive to start a business, so he moved to Hilo. His Father loaned $10,000 to start a picture-framing business.  First place to open business was in Mamo Mart.  The low rent allowed for low-cost framing. Next moves were to Waiakea Villas, then Keawe Street next to Bears Coffee. With rent escalating every year, it was time to find a place to own.  Art T helped to put together a loan package that enabled the purchase of the current building. Lesson #1-- buy property. Lesson #2-- charge enough for what you do. First 1000 frames probably undercharged by $5.  Lesson #3-- adapt to the changing market demands.  Over the years, his business gradually turned from retail to wholesale (framing for artists), and now is changing back to retail.  
 
Richard buys quality koa from Jay Warner, whose wood comes from Parker Ranch land above Laupahoehoe. He also uses milo wood from Molokai, which polishes beautifully. The only technology is a computer matte cutter and an excellent point of sale program. Future plans?  Not sure whether to continue until he can no longer work or cut back. But to this day, he still enjoys . . . .  woodworking, playing tennis, and being self-employed.  [Editor's note:  next time you are waiting at Hilo Airport, check out the woodworking display made by Richard and one of his works that is part of the display.]