By Rhonda Bodfield –
2018 Father of the Year Honoree
He didn’t know it at the time, but at 15 years old, unloading an 18-wheeler in back of his maternal grandfather’s grocery store in Philadelphia, Richard Kauffman was learning important life lessons.
Work hard. Develop competency. Treat people right.
Kauffman, a principal and CFO at the real estate investment firm Holualoa Companies, grew up the oldest of three, steeped in the rules of what made small businesses successful.
His father, a pharmacist, owned three neighborhood pharmacies before the dominance of today’s drug store giants. His paternal grandfather was a fruit and gift retailer with his own business.
“Each of them were mentors to me,” Kauffman said. “By watching them, I learned to work hard, set a goal, have a good moral compass and give back. If your neighbors helped you succeed, then you should return the favor. It’s what you do as part of a community. And if you do all of these things, success will follow.”
Kauffman’s roots may have been in neighborhood retail, but his path took him around the globe. In college, he found he had a knack for business and began his career as a CPA with KPMG in Philadelphia. Four years later, he was hired by Campbell Soup, spending 80 percent of the next four years traveling throughout the United States, Europe, South America and the Caribbean.
On one of the trips coming home, he met Sandy Capin of the venerable Capin family that ran mercantile operations in Nogales, Arizona, for generations. When the two married in 1989, and subsequently moved to Nogales in 1990, his friends were puzzled. What was he thinking, leaving the thriving metropolis of Philadelphia to live in a city of 25,000?
Kauffman’s travels had brought him to many small farming communities, so it was less of a change than it seemed. “Having spent time in so many places, I found there was something good everywhere. You just have to decide what you want.”
What he wanted was a place with better weather, a connection with family and a good place to raise children. In Nogales he became the controller of the Capin Mercantile Corporation until it was sold, and later joined Holualoa in 2000.
Even after 18 years, he still learns something new every day. He thrives on the intellectual challenge of the work because of the breadth and depth of the company, which spans from Hawaii to Europe and has a focus on venture capital as well as real estate.
Tucson is home now, a place to hike and be active with the family Labrador retrievers. “It’s small enough that you can be involved in things, but have a larger impact than if you were one person in a large city,” he said. After growing up in the humidity of the East Coast, he has an unwavering appreciation of sweeping desert vistas and towering mountains.
Kauffman said he is not only proud to be honored by the Father’s Day Council Tucson as an outstanding father in the community, but finds that its cause resonates as someone whose family has a history of diabetes.
Kauffman passed down to his daughters what he learned as a child.
Brittany, 26, has a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Arizona State University and counsels children in the Phoenix area. Taylor, 21, is studying psychology and film studies and production at the University of Denver.
“As a parent, the best thing you can do is to teach your kids values and a moral compass they can apply as they go through life,” Kauffman said. “You can’t be there to help with every decision that will confront them, but you can help them develop the tools they need to make the right decisions.”
The couple encouraged both girls to become engaged in the community.
Taylor, who was active in Girl Scouts, also raised money for her family’s foundation, which secures medical equipment for a clinic in Santa Cruz County.
Brittany volunteered in the pediatric unit of a hospital, helping sick children find some sense of normalcy and distraction through doing artwork.
It was rewarding to see their growth, he said. “I’ve been fortunate. I feel that these lessons worked for me and it’s what I’ve tried to pass down for them.”