Of Chickens and Buildings
A Path to American Carpet One
When David Arita was growing up in Waialua, he got an early lesson in endless work.
“My parents had a chicken farm,” says the American Carpet One president. “When you work on a farm, you work seven days a week. There’s no difference on Saturday or Sunday.”
David learned every job, from feeding and vaccinating the chickens to picking up manure and cleaning eggs—even slaughtering the fryers, especially during the holidays. “Everybody wanted chicken for Christmas, New Years and Thanksgiving dinner. In those days in the plantation town, everyone liked chicken.”
Not surprisingly, Arita says hard work was the first lesson from his parents. Second was the golden rule of business. “If you’re going to run a business, you’ve got to have honesty and integrity in what you do,” says Arita. The third lesson? “I learned I didn’t want to be a chicken farmer.”
Arita thought engineering sounded more promising and went to the University of Hawaii. A friend was carpet department manager at the old Wigwam Furniture Store and got Arita a part-time job to help with tuition. After graduation, Arita gave engineering a try, but 10 short months later realized that it wasn’t for him. “I realized selling carpet was a lot easier than building buildings,” he says, “and there was opportunity for growth. Being an engineer, I’d probably end up working for someone else the rest of my life. In the carpet business, I could become independent and focus on my own business.”
Arita teamed up with his Wigwam buddy, Stan Koki, and they opened The Carpet Shoppe in 1974 in the Consumer City Furniture Store on Kam Highway. They started with five employees and grew quickly. In 1976 they opened the largest freestanding carpet showroom in Hawaii at the time, added installation and contractor service departments, and increased variety and inventory.
In 1988 Arita and Koki joined Carpet One, then on its way to becoming an international cooperative of 1,600 carpet stores in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Carpet One dealers use their collective buying power to lower prices. They share operational ideas and advertising, but each dealer remains autonomous. “We’re independent,” says Arita. “We can choose how to run our own businesses and at the same time, we can buy like the big boxes and compete with Lowe’s and Home Depot.”
When Koki ran for State Senate in 1990, Arita bought out his friend’s interest. He finally owned a company of his very own.
“There are two things that make a big difference to people when they’re brand new,” says Arita. “One is a new car, the other is new flooring. It makes a huge difference in people’s lives and in their lifestyle.
“In this business,” he adds, smiling, “You get many opportunities to make people happy.”