LONG ESTABLISHED: John Storr outside his business Goodwin and Storr Mitre 10 in Laidley, which was started by his grandfather.
LONG ESTABLISHED: John Storr outside his business Goodwin and Storr Mitre 10 in Laidley, which was started by his grandfather. Dominic Elsome

Storr hardware store is a Laidley legacy

LAIDLEY has changed a great deal in the past 105 years and so has the shape of the business John Storr runs, started by his grandfather more than a century ago.

In 1913 about 1000 people lived in Laidley, there were six churches and a school, and Bill Goodwin and John Herbert "Herb" Storr took on a fabrication business "more by accident than anything".

In the years since, the town has grown to more than 3800, cars have replaced rail as the main form of transport and the firm John Storr's grandfather began has evolved into a thriving hardware store, Goodwin and Storr Mitre 10.

Bill and Herb were thrown into business together after taking over a failing operation from a man they had both been working for, Mr Storr said.

"They started making milk cans and water tanks and troughs and stuff like that," he said.

"During the 1920s when Peter Nelson, who had the hardware shop in town, passed away, his son sold the business.

"That's when we got into hardware as well as making tanks and iron mongering."

In the 1950s, Bill left the business and Herb ran things with his son, Arthur.

Mr Storr's own father went into partnership in the business in the 1980s when he returned from overseas.

In 1992, Mr Storr joined the business - in which his three sisters are partners - and in his 26 years he has seen plenty of change.

He said it was vital to keep on top of the market and make sure he was selling things people wanted.

"When I started here 30 years ago we were selling different products," Mr Storr said.

"We would have sold 90 per cent nails and 10 per cent screws and, of course, there were hammers and things.

"Now we probably sell 90per cent screws, 10 per cent nails and it's not hammers any more, it's all electric screw guns. The nail section has completely diminished.

"We used to sell truckloads of water jugs.

"Now people buy water from the corner shop and we hardly sell any.

"You can have the same product in two different colours and one won't sell, the other will walk out the door. And what sells in Brisbane won't necessarily sell in Laidley, they're completely different markets."

In 2011, Mr Storr made the decision to focus on hardware and get out of tank manufacturing.

"We stopped the tanks after the last rebates back in about 2011 because the business died," he said.

"We pumped out a lot of tanks, probably about 500 tanks in three years.

"The equipment was really getting old and I couldn't see it being worth investing the bucks into new compressors and drills.

"There wasn't much money in tanks any more and I was getting older and it was bloody hard work building tanks."

Shifting the focus meant he was able to invest in expanding and renovating the hardware store.

"We did about a quarter-of-a-million-dollar expansion back around that time," Mr Storr said.

"You've got to keep reinvesting in your business otherwise you just keep losing."

After 105 years in business Mr Storr is not sure what the future will hold, with no family members interested in taking over once he retires.

"My dad asked me to get it to 100 years old and he said 'I don't care what you do after that'," he said.

"To get it to 110 would be a good score.

"I'm 58, I don't want to be like my grandfather and uncle, working until I'm 100 and not have a life."

Mr Storr said he would like to see the business continue but admitted it was "hard yakka" and there were easier ways to make money, especially with pressure from major stores like Bunnings.

Goodwin and Storr Mitre 10 will be honoured in the Long Established Category at the Lockyer Valley Chamber of Commerce and Industry Business Recognition Dinner on June 22.

"I'm quite chuffed about it," Mr Storr said.

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