Roger Hames, the current CEO of Hames Corporation, is writing a eulogy for his father which he plans to deliver this Saturday. The message is simple: If you think Lloyd Hames was just a grocer – think again.
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Maybe it’s the political climate nowadays, but many people have the idea that there’s a culture of business, and a culture of everything else.
Roger Hames says his dad would have none of that. Not long after forming the Hames Corporation in 1969, Lloyd Hames demonstrated where his priorities lay.
“Our competition was Sitka Cold Storage – the present-day Totem Square Inn – and they were shy a meat cutter, and Dad went down and cut meat – for them!”
Roger Hames was in junior high about this time, and already interested in the grocery business.
“I couldn’t believe it. I said, Dad what are you doing? He said, They needed help, and I helped them. That’s kind of who my father was.”
Lloyd Hames died on April 12 in the Sitka Pioneers Home, where he had lived since 2011. He had been struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease for about four years.
The core businesses for the Hames Corporation remain the two Sea Mart stores in Sitka, the two Cascade Convenience centers, and a liquor store in Ketchikan.
At one time, however, in the mid-1980s, Hames’ holdings also included the entire Plaza Port West Mall in Ketchikan, and five retail outlets there, adjacent to the Ketchikan Sea Mart.
Lloyd Hames knew nothing whatsoever about groceries. He got his start working for his in-laws, Clarence and Hopewell Rands, in 1949 at a corner store called Market Center – one of many small groceries in Sitka at the time.
Roger Hames says his father made up for his lack of experience with acumen.
“He was a visionary. He was someone who was always looking to do things better or more efficiently. He was an idea guy. He always seemed to be on the cutting edge.”
And he was candid about his blind spot.
“He often tells the story, I had no idea if the toilet paper goes in the canned food section, or if the milk goes in the produce department.”
So Lloyd Hames was not born into the grocery business, but he understood hard work and opportunity.
The second thing Roger Hames wants you to know about his dad is that it was this ability that delivered him to state government – rather than his interest in politics.
In September of 1990, Lloyd Hames handed over the reins of the Sea Mart businesses to his three children. In December of that year, Governor Walter Hickel cut short Hames’ retirement.
“Wally stuck his finger in his chest and said, Lloyd what have you ever done for public service in your life? And Dad said, Nothing. And so he says, I want you to be my Commissioner of Corrections.”
Roger says Lloyd thought it over for about two days, and then jumped in with both feet. Hickel needed help, and he wasn’t looking for a bureaucrat.
“Lloyd, you have business sense and business experience, and that’s what I need in my Department of Corrections.”
Hames served two years, and worked to improve food procurement. Many of his father’s changes, says Roger, remain in place today.
The third thing to remember about Lloyd Hames, is how much can change in a moment – in deciding whether to act, or not to act.
Hames served eighteen months in the Army during the occupation of Japan following WWII. On the voyage home to Seattle he made a resolution.
“He told his friends, I’m going to marry the first woman I meet. And the next day after spending the night in the old Olympic Hotel – now the Fairmont – Dad caught a bus to go back to Rosalia, to Spokane, and on that bus was my mother, Barbara. And he struck up a conversation with her, and I’m sure glad they tied the knot, because this is what you have today.”
Roger Hames says Lloyd’s memorial will be a celebration of life for someone who helped define a family business and its relationship to community, and set a standard for those who followed him.
“I’m proud to be here, and to do business in Sitka. And we love giving back to it. I can thank my father and my mother for that.”
Lloyd Hames was 85 years old.
A visitation for Lloyd Hames will be held 5-7 PM Friday April 19 at Prewitt’s Funeral Home. A Celebration of Faith & Life will be held Saturday at noon at the Sitka Assembly of God, with a lunch afterward.