Five Generations, One Store

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John Read 1838 -1922  

John Read came to Thames soon after the goldfields opened in 1867.  He commenced business as a timber merchant and ironmonger in Brown Street, and later expanded to Shortland, at a site close to the then Kauri Timber Company timber yard.

John’s business was renowned for stocking hardware of every conceivable kind available at the time.  Little did he know how significant this aspect would be for the business’s future success.

He was a very active worker and took a keen interest in all matters of progress to the town and surrounding district. For a number of years he held office of the Thames Borough Council and was a foundation member of the Thames Land Building and Investment Society.

He was a member of St George’s Church, being a member of the vestry and in 50 years very rarely missed a service.

Arthur Read 1882 – 1970

On the death of John Read, his two sons, Charles and Arthur continued John’s business at Shortland.  On 22 July 1934 Charles Read passed away at the age of 55 years leaving Arthur as the sole operator.  Arthur, like John, ensured the business was renowned for stocking hardware of every conceivable kind

Arthur was also a contractor and as such constructed many utilities throughout the town.  Contracts such as the original Hape Creek Bridge on Jellicoe Crescent and associated drainage in the Parawai area. Arthur also constructed a building adjacent to the Exchange Hotel in Pollen Street, and in 1935 this building became the premises for the present day business.

Read Bros (as the business was then called) had no verandah or street front windows, the frontage being of flat iron and painted a dull red.  The side walls being corrugated iron and unpainted.

By now hardware had started to expand in range and Read Bros’ stock could best be described as a conglomeration of everything imaginable.  Arthur was by now being ably assisted by his only son Alan, however he was soon to leave the business and go to war.

As well as serving customers, Arthur maintained a workshop at the rear of the premises that enabled him to replace saucepan handles, sharpen saws and other tools, mend primus stoves, solder up leaking pots and kettles, repair windows, fix doors, mix paint in preparation for contract jobs and tend to the needs of the local fishing fleet.   Name it, he did it.

Arthur always rode a bike to and from the shop daily and did so until well into his eighties, making him a well-known identity.

Arthur died in 1970 leaving Alan to continue the business.

Alan Read 1916 – 1979

Alan’s early involvement in Read Bros pre-dated WWII and following his return from war he re-entered the family business. A business that was by now somewhat diminished due to WWII influence.  Alan and Arthur worked together at rebuilding the business and soon enhanced the shop’s presentation by the addition of a verandah and shop windows.

Whilst these additions aided the exterior presentation the in shop display remained unchanged, that of stock on tables, in boxes, stock tucked under other stock, etc – rather a jumble, a continuance of the past. Possibly this situation was a result of the 1920’s depression followed closely by WWII which created a period of survival conditions where spare cash for display cabinets and proper shelving just wasn’t available.  None-the-less Alan, like Arthur, continued with the offer of having everything imaginable in the way of hardware.

Following Arthur’s death, under Alan’s management it was business as usual for a number of years.  By now the odd job/contracting work that Arthur undertook had reduced considerably and Alan was now concentrating on developing the business as a modern retail shop.

In 1972 Alan’s son Stuart joined the business and worked alongside his father until Alan’s death in 1979.

Stuart Read  b. 1952

Stuart, having commenced working for his father in 1972 and following his father’s death in 1979 set about revamping the interior of Read Bros Hardware.  The following years saw many changes to the business.

1980 saw the introduction of display shelving and cabinets which provided an improved stock layout and allowed for an increased stock holding.  In 1982 the resultant increase in trade led to the business becoming a member of the Lucerne Wholesale Society buying group.

1985 saw the introduction of a computerised system that enabled better control of stock and accounting processes. Stuart’s business continued to grow and soon demanded that larger premises be found.  In 1996 the adjoining Exchange Hotel property was purchased, the building demolished and a new shop built which in addition to refurbishment to the present building, resulted in a shop twice the size.

By now the buying group Lucerne Wholesale Society had morphed into Hammer Wholesale Ltd, and then into the Hammer Hardware Group, of which Stuart became a board member and later chairman.  A position he held for some 12 years.

The newly increased shop size allowed for a greater stock range ensuring a continuance of the store’s philosophy of stocking everything imaginable without comprising on quality. 

The store by now having earned the catch phrase – “If you can’t find it, Read Bros will have it”.

In 2003 Stuart’s son John joined the business.

John Read b. 1981

In 2003 John, named after his great great grandfather, became the 5th generation Read to enter the family business after having completed an apprenticeship at the local Toyota Signature Plant where he became a fully qualified Auto Refinisher.

Over the next few years Stuart taught his son all that he himself had learned of the hardware trade and of running a business.  John, a keen and interested student, soon developed his own wealth of knowledge and began introducing new approaches to the business.

By 2014 John, as store manager, and with an understanding of the family history, withdrew the business from the Hammer Hardware Group.  A group whose dictates were by now conflicting with the true nature of the Read Bros ethos.

John’s desire to further the family business were now leading him into the technological age and he soon had a store website in place and facebook presence.