History of Old Master Products
Old Master Products was created by Lee B. Strifling in
Detroit, Michigan in the early thirties, soon after the depression. Mr.
Strifling was a chemist and worked for a varnish company in Detroit prior to the
opening of his own business in Detroit.
Because of ill health and bad weather conditions in
Michigan, the Strifling family moved to Los Angeles, California in the middle
Soon Mr. Strifling started a wholesale finish
business at 3021 Exposition Place, next door to his biggest customer, Andrew
Nordin, owner of Hardwood Floor Contractor's Supply. Other customers in California were
Galleher Hardwood, Pacific Flooring Supply in Oakland, Klein
Flooring Supply in San Jose, and a few other smaller floor supply places.
When World War II started in 1941, Carl Hilaski enlisted in the Army Air Force as a private and was sent to Perrin Field,
Sherman Texas. Carl was a farm boy from Michigan and soon applied for Air
Force Cadet Training. He was chosen and sent to Pre-flight school at Costa
Mesa, California. There he was classified and sent to Pilot school. While at Pre-flight school, Carl met Lee Strifling's daughter Elaine Ruth
Strifling at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, California. Elaine was one
of many UCLA girls that hosted the Pre-flight school's graduation party. Carl graduated
from P-38 Pilot School at Williams Field, Arizona and in September 1944 he was
sent to the 15th Air Force at Foggia, Italy where he served as Lieutenant.
When Carl returned to the United States in November
of 1945, he married Elaine Strifling and completed his military service from the Air Force in
In the fall of 1946, Carl enrolled at the University
of Michigan Business School and graduated in 1949 with a Bachelor of Business
Carl and his wife Elaine moved back to California
and Carl went to work for his Father-in-law, Lee B. Strifling. The big
boom in house construction was taking place in the early Fifties and competition
for finishes was increasing. Carl persuaded his Father-in-law to sell the
finishes directly to the contractors.
The company moved from Exposition Place to 3791 Second Avenue, Los
Angeles, California and Carl began calling on contractors. Strifling and Carl had a "Limited Partnership" agreement, where Carl was the
Limited Partner. Lee's health was failing and he passed away in 1955. Soon after, Carl became the sole owner. A year later in 1956, the recognizable Old Master Products "logo" was created.
In the early sixties, the FHA did not require
hardwood in the tract houses and, of course, many contractors and suppliers went out of business. About 1975, after the Oil Embargo, there was renewed interest in hardwood
flooring and the industry began to increase again. In the 1980's, Old Master Products purchased the land and
building at 3791 2nd Avenue.
In 1997, the company was sold to Carl's son, Jim
Hilaski and Old Master Products became Old Master
Products, Inc. Since that time, Jim along with partner Shaul Dina have strived and are committed to maintaining the Old Master Products quality and customer service instilled in the company by Jim's father Carl. To this day, Carl remains proud of the company he built for over 40 years and that it continues to grow under the new dedicated ownership.