Landmark Warrnambool business celebrates 90th birthday

Published in The Standard, March 15, 2013

WARRNAMBOOL hardware store Pontings has survived depressions, droughts, multi-national marketing forces and 90 years later is still going strong.

Pontings Timber and Hardware director Wally Ponting was only 15 when he joined the company in the 1930s.

Back then Warrnambool was a town of about 10,000 people, staff would fill out invoices manually, workers would ride their bikes to work and there were stables at the back of the store.

“Farmers used to come in with their horses and carts frequently but that all changed very quickly in the ’40s when the car arrived,” the 82-year-old said yesterday.

“Drivers would pick up their horse and cart and would be here all day doing deliveries around town.”

Before taking up a position in the family business, Mr Ponting would watch his father Walter working at the hardware store.

The company’s roots go back to 1923, when Walter’s father purchased the original site in Kepler Street with his brother Len.

Ninety years later, Wally and his children Pamela Madner, Sandra Miller and Walter Ponting are the company’s directors.

Mrs Miller said the loyalty and friendship of employees and customers helped build the company to what it is today.

“A lot of our long-term employees show commitment and loyalty and we have customers that come in specifically to see or ask a particular person for help.

“That’s because the staff don’t just serve them, they have a good, friendly customer relationship and the workers and customers get to know each other.

“We are very fortunate and other companies that come into the area don’t always necessarily have that community base.”

Today Pontings celebrates its 90th birthday with store-wide celebrations and an afternoon barbecue and drinks for staff and customers.

Old tools and photographs will also be on display.

Mr Ponting said he was looking forward to sharing in the milestone birthday.

“It’s always a pleasure to see people that you haven’t seen in years, people who became a big part of your life.”

He said that in his seven decades of working with Pontings, he has enjoyed every day.

“In all the places I’ve travelled I couldn’t find a better place to work than in Warrnambool — the staff are great and the weather is good.”

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Brianna Piazza

Journalist and travel writer.

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