Updated: Apr 11
✦ There's a lot to be said for a business that has proven its resilience and endurance by standing the test of time.
Harold Vickery & Son was established in 1862 and pride themselves in carrying on the company tradition of producing Australian made, custom designed, heavy duty leather products that are built to last.
When the business was created, there was no internet, no computer and many deadly viruses like polio and H1N1 influenza (the root of the Spanish Flu pandemic) with no vaccine. This business weathered the Great Depression, World War II and more.
Specialising in heavy duty products made to last for the mining, industrial, engineering and construction industries including protective belts, bags and pouches, Harold Vickery & Son operate out of a factory in Wauchope, regional NSW, Australia. They supply some of the biggest mining and construction companies in the world and distribute both Australia wide and internationally.
New owner carrying on the tradition and craftsmanship
Taking an opportunity to purchase a business of such stature and presence in not only Australia, but also renowned internationally, Matthew Hyde stands proudly at the helm for the past 12 months.
Together, Matthew and his wife made a sea change, relocating their young family to the Hastings Valley and set to work to nurture and grow the 160-year-old business.
Prior to taking over, Matthew was employed in local government in Sydney, and before that he was working as contaminated land consulting in the private sector. But, but in his spare time he loved to tinker in his garage making things. Along came their first child and he wasn’t allowed to use power tools in his garage anymore - too noisy!
A new hobby needed to be found that was a little quieter. One day whilst carrying out his day job doing a site inspection, he came upon a roll of leather in a vacated building. He admits to being a bit of a collector, and the owner of the building said he could take it home if he could find a use for it. It sat in a corner for a while, waiting for the perfect design to use it on.
In the meantime, one of his best friends had done a hand making leather course, and the way she talked about it made Matthew think of the roll of leather gathering dust on the shelf in garage. Ideas were floated about what to make out of it, and his lovely wife overheard the conversation and set about enrolling him in a leather making course.
She had found the gift to give the person who buys all his own things. It was something she knew he wanted, but probably would never do for himself. On his first fathers day he received a gift card, and his fate was sealed.
So Matthew completed the course in Sydney learning traditional leather crafting skills. How to saddle stitch, how to do stamping, how to join two flat objects together into a 3d shape.
It soon became his new hobby, after work in the evenings once his son had settled, to sit in the garage cutting leather and honing his skills. When it was time to sew, he’d set up out in the backyard under a portable light, hammering into the leather to start the stitching process.
It became an outlet for him, away from the hustle and bustle of the city grind. He even joined various Facebook groups that furthered his interest in leather goods.
Port Macquarie was calling the couple - they regularly visited family and friends in the area. They sought a more relaxed place to raise their family, close to the beach and bush, they sought a sense of freedom.
Four years ago they purchased a home in Port Macquarie and started looking for jobs so they could make the move. Finding a job was the trick.
Whilst researching job prospects, Matthew came across Harold Vickery & Son in Wauchope, just a short drive from Port Macquarie, and the business was for sale. Matthew and his wife, who was expecting their second child at the time, called Grandma to look after baby number one, and jumped in the car and set out to check out the business.
They both thought the business had untapped potential. It was being run from a 1950’s perspective, they could see room for expansion and modernisation. Machinery was still being used from the 70’s: it was great, still running and doing the job, but they thought it didn’t allow them to think in a different kind of fashion. To think about the way things can be done in 2020, 2021, 2022 even 10 years from now.
Matthew's mind went into action instantly. This place needs a laser cutter as a first thought. He told us, “I didn’t want to stand here and cut leather by hand all day, I'll look into a laser cutter for sure.”
But reality soon set in, the pandemic hit and Matthew continued with his hobby in the garage. Locked down in Sydney, he worked from home giving him an extra three hours or so of time saved from the normal commuting to his day job. He used the time wisely, researching leather materials and products, who’s making what already. Matthew immersed himself crafting belts, bags, and card wallets. He was learning.
Friends and family started asking for him to make them things; a toiletry bag, a notebook cover, bags, custom size leather belts for a mates wedding. He was finding that they appreciated the effort that goes into making something by hand. Eventually he even figured out what to do with the extra roll of leather, he turned it into a beach bag for their weekly trips with the kids down to lighthouse beach.
Eventually, life started to come back to some sense of normal, restrictions eased, and the decision was made to purchase Harold Vickery & Son
Yes, the name has remained. Matthew said, “I think the name is an important part of the story of the business, yes the machines’ from 1972, but the name is from 1862.”
Customers have also stood the test of time. People have been buying products from Harold Vickery & Son since World War I, before the Boer War, he told us. “Harold Vickery is reliable. A reliable product, reliable order system, you get what you asked for and on time.”
The strength of the brand is the name, the quality product it references and of course reliability in supply. The knowledge that product lines remain, they are manufactured in the same way, using the same machines has guaranteed the brand has stood the test of time. Modernisation will take place, it has to for the name to continue for another 160 years, but the brand and ethic will remain true.
The majority of the machines used are old, there are even some museum pieces sitting under dust covers out the back. They aren’t in use because parts are no longer available, the manufacturer has gone out of business or their supplier has. This will eventually be something the business won’t be able to support into the long term. New machines will need to be introduced.
For example Matthew showed us the 50th anniversary edition of the Singer Compound Sewing machine. “It