Paul S. Hobaica, founder of Hobaica Services, Phoenix, AZ, passed away on October 4. I was fortunate to have met Mr. H in 2011, during a Contractor of the Year visit to the Phoenix office. He was another in the long line of men who founded great companies in a tough business, and that are still in existence.
This post will take longer than a minute to read. But that's okay. It's worth the time.
The best part of serving on the editorial staff of ContractingBusiness.com is meeting contractors. Visiting their offices, seeing what they do, how they do it, and getting to know the people behind the brick and mortar.
Among my most memorable visits was to Phoenix in 2011, to interview the team at Hobaica Services, who we had selected as our 2011 Residential HVAC Contractor of the Year.
Paul S. Hobaica was there, and his sons Paul, Louis, and Mike, and other family members, and of course the teams of installers and technicians. There were plaques on the wall, and other identifiers that showed this company had many customers, had won many awards, and had been very successful.
And guess what? It was all because of the initiative of one man, Paul S. Hobaica.
Do we ever forget the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit, of the muscle, and time, and concern, and strategy that goes into not only starting a business, but keeping it thriving and . . . GROWING.
Oh yeah, growth. That means you will actually have something to show after decades of work.
For about 20 years prior to my visit, Mr. Hobaica was no longer active in the business, having sold it to his sons in 1989. But he was there often, because he loved it, loved his family, the employees, and he loved seeing their success. He was a pleasant man, content, and happy for what the company had become under his sons' direction. And did they ever run with it. The company is an amazing service and installation leader in the Valley of the Sun.
Paul Hobaica and his parents arrived in the U.S. in 1924. He served in the U.S. military as a radio operator, participated in the Battle of the Bulge and other engagements, and won a Bronze Star for heroism.
After a couple business ventures, he started Hobaic Refrigeration in 1952, on the GI Bill. The business grew, and Hobaica fed and sheltered a family of eight. He also gave back, to churches and those less fortunate.
'In My Own Words'
From July 2005 through November 2006, son Paul J. Hobaica Sr. had the great idea to record their father telling his life story, as a husband, father, soldier, and business owner.
Here are some excerpts:
- "I came to Phoenix, Arizona when I was 4 months old. We traveled to America by boat and then to Arizona by train. We lived with my uncle across the street from family friends, Mr. & Mrs. Hyder. We lived there until we moved to our own house down in South Phoenix because my dad couldn’t speak English. All he spoke was Lebanese and Spanish."
- "I don’t regret my life growing up. It was a good, close family. Back in those days, you could buy a loaf of bread for a nickel or a dime, and you could buy a quart of milk for 10 or 15 cents. But, that was still a lot of money. Percentage wise, it was almost as much as it is now, except now you make probably 10 times more than you made then."
- "We would go to church every Sunday morning. We used to walk from 1st Avenue and Lincoln, all the way to St. Mary’s Church. It was a good mile. At least the church had evaporative cooling."
- "In those days, each time you got four '1s' on your report card, you could go down to the Coca Cola Company and they’d give you a six-pack of Coke. Well, we lived at 810 South Central and the Coca Cola Company was I think 1005 South Central. And I’d walk up there and get a six-pack of Coke every time. And we were a close family. So I’d take it home and I'd share it."
- "I think, that’s where I got the Bronze Star, for going back to get help under enemy fire. I had been put in for the Silver Star twice, I think in Washington they got tired of seeing my name, so they decided to give me the Bronze Star. Back in World War II it wasn’t easy to get the Bronze Star or the Silver Star. The Silver Star was the highest, and then the Bronze Star."
- "Before we got engaged I took Elizabeth for a ride down to South Mountain. We used to like to go to South Mountain and go way up to the top and sit there and look at the valley and all the lights.So I went up there and my lights went out. And she thought I was being fresh ‘cause thelights went out. And I said, “No my lights went out seriously.” Well, thank God, at that time she smoked and the packs of cigarettes had tin foil in them. So, I took a piece of tin foil and I wrapped it around the fused. Then she believed me that I wasn’t kidding her."
- "Once we got back home and I proposed to her. I suggested that we get married on Valentine’s Day. The reason was, it was Lent and at that time you couln't get married during Lent. Valentines Day was a holiday and you could do other things that you couldn't do during Lent. And to myself I said, “Hey that’s a good idea. This way I’ll never forget our anniversary.”
- "When I first went in to business I opened this shop in Glendale, right by the railroad station. It was just a small shop and I didn’t have anybody in the office. I was operating by myself. But I had more business in Phoenix than I had in Glendale. ‘Cause Sweiger Refrigeration was in Glendale, and he had most all the customers, and he had been there many years. Well the company before him had all the businesses of Glendale. Then when he bought this other guy out he had all the businesses. So I had a hard time building clients there. Sometimes if he got too swamped, he had a couple of guys working for him, he’d give me a couple. But I had more business in Phoenix. So that’s when I decided to come back in Phoenix and work out of the garage."
- "Every year we would win a trip from York to go somewhere. I started with York in ’56 and I won my first trip selling condensing units. And I was doing a lot of commercial work, so I sold a lot of commercial units and I won a trip. I think it was to Hawaii, and Elizabeth was so excited."
- "When I turned 65 years old my boys, Louis and Paul, were ready to buy me out. I wasn’t ready to retire; I thought I had a few more good years, but they didn’t look at it that way. They thought that I had to retire, so I sold them the business. Well, we went through all the proper procedures which cost me and the boys a lot of money. I would have rather done it the old fashioned way with a shake of hands. Well, that wouldn’t work and they were willing to pay me value price for the business and the property. Now I get a check every month, so I’m satisfied and happy. I haven’t had to touch my investments.
- "The business is doing great today. They are 3 smart young men running it, Louis, Mike and Paul. They are doing 100% better than I did, but I was satisfied with the small group I had. I just hope and pray that they save some money for their future. I would like to see some of my grandkids take an interest in it so that it continues on for another generation."