The highs and lows of busi­ness

Tweed Daily News - - NEWS - Ais­ling Bren­nan ais­ling.bren­nan@tweed­dai­

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.

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