The highs and lows of business
YOU’D be hard-pressed to find many businesses that have been in operation for 100 years, but Hayes Steel in Murwillumbah seems to have discovered the secret to success.
The steel sourcing, supply and fabrication company has long been the go-to source for steel products.
Originally opened by Alexander Robert Hayes in 1918 at Proudfoots Lane, Murwillumbah, near the original saleyards, the blacksmith shop was a hive of activity.
“My grandfather was very entrepreneurial – while the blacksmith shop was always constant, he also had a number of businesses, including a grocery shop, a shoe store and he was an undertaker and a banana farmer,” grandson Michael Hayes said.
“He invented a number of things to use in the banana growing industry and devices they use, that was the cornerstone of his blacksmithing business.”
The business, originally known as A.R. Hayes and Sons, moved in 1935 to Wollumbin St and started trading as a machinery and engineering store.
After the death of Alexander in the late 1950s, the business was handed over to his two sons and three daughters.
“It’s an unbroken family business,” Michael said.
“In the early 1990s we moved to the current location at Buchanan St, Murwillumbah, and we started operating under the name Hayes Steel.
“We moved to Buchanan St in South Murwillumbah because we were instrumental in Murwillumbah losing the Tidy Towns competition. We had steel everywhere out the back of the shop.
“When we used to light the forge up you would walk up Proudfoots Lane and you couldn’t see in front of your face because of the smoke.”
These days, the business is owned by Karyn North, after her late husband, David, took over the business almost 20 years ago.
Employing 22 staff, Hayes Steel continues to supply Australian-made steel from Yatala to Lismore.
But in March 2017, Hayes Steel suffered an enormous blow when ex-tropical Cyclone Debbie wreaked havoc across the Tweed Shire and flooded the Buchanan St facility, with water reaching 1.8m throughout the plant.
“Hayes Steel has shown it’s a resilient company,” Ms North said.
“Even when the flood happened there were 22 families relying on this business. Looking after our employees was our priority, we didn’t want to let anyone down.”
Employees and community volunteers spent days cleaning up the facility, with every piece of steel having to be cleaned, oiled and hosed down.
“The fact that we’re still here is a testament to the staff,” office manager Jenny Land said.
“They were a major factor in clawing back even with the insurance setbacks.”
Ms Land said the company’s strength was a testament to the Norths’ commitment to the business
Even when the flood happened there were 22 families relying on this business.
— Karyn North
and its legacy.
“David was the heart and soul of this place and worked almost 24 hours a day to get this place up and running again (after the flood),” Ms Land said.
“It’s a testament to him that we’re still surviving.”
Hayes Steel is currently working with the the NSW Government to move their operations to flood-free land, as part of the $3 million land swap arrangement.
CONGRATULATIONS: Hayes Steel staff outside their shop as they get ready to celebrate 100 years in business.