The booming seaside town that refused to give up its local hardware store


In the small tourist town of Port Fairy, property regularly sells for millions, but when the owners of the local hardware store decided to retire and sell, they turned down offers from developers until they found a buyer who would keep the 100 year old. business alive.

Ken and June Brookes have grown their business since entering the industry in the 1970s and now own several combined titles that make up their large hardware store and lumber yard.

Retirement: Port Fairy Hardware Store Owners Ken and June Brookes(Provided: Stacey Woods Photography)

But the allure of a big sale was not enough to compromise their values.

“This [the store] has been in the market for about three or four years, and there’s no question we’ve had a lot of interest there, ”said co-owner June Brookes.

“But a lot of the interest was in the development of Port Fairy, and they weren’t interested in buying hardware,” she said.

Part of the desire to keep the hardware store at Port Fairy is the history of the site.

Robert Ireland’s Lumber Yard, Sackville St, Port Fairy, 1870.(Provided: Port Fairy Historical Society)

“This site has been a hardware store for about a hundred years,” Ms. Brookes said.

The Brookes recently received a 1920s photograph of a horse-drawn delivery on the main street of Port Fairy, which was delivered to a family, who are still customers of the store today.

Sepia photograph on a sunny day in the 1920s 6 large black horses draw a large cart stacked with bales of hay.
A delivery from Orford to Port Fairy for the Fry family, who are still customers today.(Provided: Port Fairy Historical Society)

Most importantly, their condition of sale was about their dedication to the traders and residents of the city, who Ken Brookes loved working with over the years.

“Our attitude was that if another company didn’t stock some type of product, we would try to stock it, so people wouldn’t have to leave town to get it,” Mr. Brookes said.

“We are still following this a bit today, hence the great variety in store.”

Entering the store is a bit of a time lag from the days of the aptly named country town general store, which offers everything from TVs to wood, flip flops to teapots, garden stakes. to floral dinner sets.

Mugs printed with a painting of a man on a tractor with a border collie dog in a hardware store.
Australiana mugs are part of the diverse stock of Brookes Hardware Store.(ABC Southwest Victoria: Emily Bissland)

“A common cry when people walk through the front door is, ‘You don’t see stores like this anymore! “” Mr. Brookes said.

Over the past half-century, the site has grown to look a bit like Myers storefronts, with four storefronts along Main Street, but with barbecues rather than Barbie mannequins.

Inside, there is a landscaped alley, a lumber yard, even a disused squash court that serves as a warehouse.

The long wait to sell to the right people took the Brookes way past their desired retirement date, but now that they’ve found a buyer, it’s made the people of town very happy.

A retired woman stands in front of a material warehouse with a sign for a lumber yard.
June Brookes can’t wait to retire.(ABC Southwest Victoria: Emily Bissland)

From the many businesses that serve Port Fairy to the “handymen” who don’t know where to start but who have enjoyed Ken and June’s tutelage over the years, locals have been flocking to the store for weeks to say thank you, goodbye and pay. up to their accounts.

Councilor Jordan Lockett, who owned a cafe next to the hardware store in the late ’90s, is one of those self-proclaimed “clueless handymen”.

“I was there almost every other day, I needed something for the coffee!” said Cr Jordan Lockett.

Smiling 40-year-old man holding toddler in front of a hardware store in Port Fairy wearing a purple t-shirt.
Cr Jordan Lockett says the Brookes are town heroes.(ABC Southwest Victoria: Emily Bissland)

Cr Lockett thought the decision to only sell the site with the company was heroic.

“Obviously, this is top notch real estate, spanning four blocks and right in the middle of the city,” he said.

The Brookes remain deeply loved at Port Fairy for their old-fashioned style of service that goes above and beyond, delivering gasoline after hours, ordering specialty products and, in recent times, ensuring that builders could access material. wood supply to come.

Not to mention their decades of donating to city projects.

They have supported the Francis Foundation rent-free op-shop at the back of their site for many decades, and have raised funds and donated thousands to community projects, including helping to build a visitation room safe from the COVID in the local nursing home, Belfast House, in 2020.

An old dilapidated squash court facade redeveloped for an op-shop
Decades of free rent have been donated by the Brookes to the Francis Foundation Op-shop(ABC Southwest Victoria: Emily Bissland)

Ms Brookes said she wouldn’t miss out on paperwork, storage or vacuuming, but would fail to problem-solve and encourage people to take on DIY projects.

“People bring pictures of what they’ve done, so so you can see people come in and say, ‘Look what I did, look what I did! ” she said.

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