Seeding a Big Business
Big things grow from tiny seeds. Hilberts Hardware is one dynasty that started off small and has kept growing till today. And Sharon Griffiths is proud to share the story of how it grew.
It all started when Grandfather Marten Hilberts started the business to help Sharon’s Uncle with his building company by buying bulk timber and hardware.
He ended up with an excess of supplies and decided to open a small shop front in Hastings Street, Wauchope. It catered to not only the building industry and the home handyman but also the timber logging industry that was thriving in the Wauchope area at the time. That was a wise business move and Hilberts Hardware was born.
Photo Credit: Craig Mason of East Coast Photography
Long, long ago…
And what was Grandfather Marten’s story?
He originated from Holland and he had a peat business back then, supplying fuel for heating and he managed a team of workers in his business. In the 1950s, he decided to immigrate to Australia as the family had lived through the atrocities of the Second World War. Marten wanted his family to live in a country that was free of war and safe. The family settled west of Wauchope in the hinterland and he started work in a timber mill.
The early days of settling in were tough. The family home had a dirt floor, and they did their best to make a new life there. It was not an easy start but here they were safe, and that was what mattered in building up a family in the new country. Sharon’s Dad Max was 14 at that time. He spent about a year in school, then went to work on the railway.
The hardware store has progressed over the years from the small shop front opened by Marten. His son Max eventually started working alongside him and when he took over the business, he doubled the original shop front.
In 1990 Max purchased land across the road and built the two-story shopfront we see today. The dynasty continued when Sharon took over the business some 6 months later after the sudden passing of her father Max.
30 years on, the store has over 10,000 stock lines, and caters not only to builders, handymen, and the logging industry but also has a vast range of gardening tools and equipment, paint, hydraulic fittings, sealants and glues, grease equipment, and products, bearings, V/Belts, pulleys, roller chain, lift jacks, bench grinders, power tools, pneumatic tools, drills, taps and dies, calipers, air inflators and gauges, welding gear, MIG wire, ropes, and even kitchenware and camping gear.
Each generation has taken a part of their business and put in their hard work and efforts to expand it and bring in more products for the community.
Never underestimate the power of starting small. Big things have small beginnings!
Helming the Dynasty
Sharon Griffiths plays many roles and shines in all of them! She is a Business Woman, Councillor, Mother, and Grandmother. Definitely one with a busy schedule but with a clear head on rock-solid shoulders, she is very organised and has learned through the generations to always put her best foot forward and help others along the way.
She is the third generation in the Hilberts Hardware dynasty in Wauchope, and she is proud to celebrate their 50th year in business in 2021.
Hilberts Hardware has come a long way since Sharon’s grandfather started it.
Sharon was born and resided with her family in Newcastle until the age of 15 when her grandfather suffered a heart attack and her Dad Max moved the family to Wauchope to take over the hardware business. This was the catalyst for the continuation of the strong family-run and owned business that has become part of the Wauchope community.
She got into the business at a tender age and while Sharon attended Wauchope High School, she also worked in the hardware shop to help out after school and on the weekends. Once she finished school, she did a one-year stint alongside her father learning the ropes.
One with a spirit for adventure, Sharon packed her backpack and set off travelling around Europe, the US and Canada for 5 months. She thoroughly enjoyed every minute and soaked up all the experiences.
When she returned home to Wauchope, she landed a job at the Department of Education, then with a local accountancy firm. Whilst working for the accountancy firm, she started up a business with her husband Jeff Griffiths. It was a tractor wrecking business, and Griffiths Traders is still a thriving business run today by Jeff’s family. Not long after, she left the accountancy firm to work for Kempsey Timbers ( known today as Australian Solar Timbers ) as their office administrator and bookkeeper. Sharon helped that business to grow and devised a very successful bonus incentive scheme for their employees.
In 1991, after the sudden passing of Sharon’s father Max, she returned to the family business and took over the helm, further expanding the business and becoming a very successful businesswoman in her own right.
When asked how she succeeded in a man’s world, dealing with log fallers, farmers, heavy haulage drivers, builders and the like, she chuckled and said... ”I think I've educated them over time, they know that if they're going to ask me a question, I'm probably going to give them the answer, or I will find the answer promptly.”
The invaluable knowledge gained from working alongside her grandfather and father through the years since she was young prepared her well to deal with business and challenges her working environment brought her. Sharon also learned to be humble enough to realise she always had the option to research and ask if she did not know something, and this is a special touch that her customers appreciate. Her customers are never left hanging - if she did not know, she would source for the product and find an answer for the customer.