Known for sitting near the head of South Australia’s Spencer Gulf, the idyllic city of Port Augusta is not only a beautiful place to live, it is quite literally a “˜crossroads of Australia’.
With a population of nearly 14,000, Port Augusta is a natural harbour town, nestled about 300 km north of the state’s capital Adelaide.
The town is lucky enough to be located facing the iconic Flinders Ranges. It also acts as a seaport and railway junction, seemingly connecting a wide range of locations.
TimberTrader News spoke to the current general manager of Better Homes Supplies Mitre 10, Robert Young, about Port Augusta and the business’ at times dramatic history, as well as their success over the years.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Towards the end of the 1970s, owner Lorenzo Duregon made the choice to turn his building business into a retail store for builders supply needs in Port Augusta.
This decision was spurred by the fact that the current major hardware suppliers Vic Lee and Cowell Building Supplies were simultaneously shutting their doors, leaving the residents of Port Augusta with very few options for building products retailers. Lorenzo was more than happy to step up to the plate, and so his business journey began.
Cowell Building Supplies was a Mitre 10 store, so following their closure the national retail identity approached Lorenzo to join their team of independent stores across Australia in 1978.
It wasn’t long until Lorenzo decided to expand the business and in 1981 a store was opened in Port Pirie. However, only 12 months later, Lorenzo’s flagship store in Port Augusta was engulfed in tragedy when it was destroyed by fire.
UP IN FLAMES
There were difficult days following, and Lorenzo was faced with tough decisions regarding the future, if any, of the Port Augusta store.
As hard as it was, the choice to move forward was made and the plans to re-build the Port Augusta store were in motion. Lorenzo relocated the new store adjacent to the now fire-damaged original building.
After much labour the hard work indeed paid off for Lorenzo and his team and Port Augusta’s Better Homes Supplies Mitre 10 was officially re-opened for business on the 16 November 1982.
However, it didn’t turn out to be the end for the old store grounds, and proving the old saying true that ‘out of the ashes, new life grows’, in this instance, quite literally, in April 1991 Lorenzo re-built on his original store site the now Garden, Outdoor & Leisure Centre.
Robert Young joined the business in 1987 after his local family store was sold. He had known Lorenzo and his wife Thea and said that being the small place it is, job opportunities in Port Augusta were few and far between, so when Lorenzo offered Robert work at Better Homes all those years ago, he jumped at the chance.
28 years later and Lorenzo and Robert are still there, put simply, “Because we love what we do!” Robert said.
PRIDE AND JOY
Lorenzo has, and continues to have, great faith in the future growth of his Port Augusta store. In 2005 he decided to expand Better Homes Supplies even further with a new two-storey extension at the rear of the hardware building, providing customers with a wider range of products on display for new home purchasers and renovators.
Harding & Manning, a business that was renting the premises in front of Better Homes Garden Centre, went out of business in 2009 due to voluntary liquidation.
It was an opportunity that Lorenzo snapped up and in 2010 he began to redevelop the Garden and Outdoor Leisure Centre even further.
The expansion and what it has meant for the Port Augusta store today has made the world of difference to the business, Robert remarked.
“This has now been completed and every supplier and representative openly comments about this being the best offering of products in the state, which makes us very proud.
“Better Homes Supplies is now a large and successful business that offers more than most Adelaide stores for the people of Port Augusta and the surrounding district, and employs 34 staff members, some of which have been with the company for over 30 years, which means we must be doing something right!” he added.
NO SIGN OF STOPPING
Better Homes Supplies has evolved alongside the mining, tourist and farming industries boom across Northern and Western South Australia.
The biggest changes over the years have been the varying demands for components of the business, Robert said.
“We used to gain the majority of our business from the trade sector, however, we’ve witnessed over the years a shift and consequently, things have shifted to a bigger percentage of customers for retail.
“Competition from big cities nearby
such as Adelaide, has meant less demand for our trade and timber supply departments but an increase for the retail side,” Robert observed.
However, the business moves along and is still active in the trade sector, working closely with local builders and ensuring these relationships are maintained.
“Our extensive stock holding and affiliation with thousands of suppliers across Australia has enabled Better Homes Supplies to become the preferred supplier for many businesses connected with these industries, which is something we are immensely proud of,” Robert stated.
FUTURE VISION FOR OUR BUSINESS
Lorenzo and the rest of the Better Homes team may have built the strong foundations for this Port Augusta business, but they still continue to look forward with a future vision for the store.
“Our aim is to make our store the best hardware and timber supply store outside of Adelaide for South Australia.
“We want to continue offering an extensive range of good products which
are innovative, suitable for the marketplace and to be competitive in regards to pricing for not just the local residents, but also those outside of Port Augusta who we want to establish a good rapport with,”
“By keeping up with the times, including trends in product and technology innovations, and the environment and climate change, our hope is the business will be available with everything our customer needs for their home, garden and timber supplies to suit the market at the time,” Robert said.
The pride this business has in their small pocket of Australia is difficult to forget, as Robert adds that the team at Better Homes Supplies Mitre 10 in Port Augusta never
“Knowledge is king in this business, and we will never stop learning in order to benefit our customers and maintain our competitive edge,” Robert concluded.