PART OF THE FURNITURE: Elmer’s staff Roslyn McCabe (left), Belinda Bastin and manager Susan Gehrke (nee Elmer) welcome customers to the store during its 54th birthday celebration month of August.
PART OF THE FURNITURE: Elmer’s staff Roslyn McCabe (left), Belinda Bastin and manager Susan Gehrke (nee Elmer) welcome customers to the store during its 54th birthday celebration month of August. Jocelyn Watts

Business has survived the worst

ELMER’S furniture store in Rocky Street, Maryborough, has been burned to the ground, completely flooded, embezzled by trusted staff, and survived the severe recession of the 1980s, but it is still going strong, as is the business in Hervey Bay.

This month, 54 years after Dick Elmer opened for business, the store is celebrating yet another birthday in a style the late businessman would have approved – a celebratory sale.

Mr Elmer, master of the “closing down” sale, faced many challenges during his business years but he always bounced back, his daughter Susan Gehrke said.

The business literally rose again from the ashes after being destroyed by fire in 1974.

However, Mr Elmer’s darkest years came through economic recession. “Dad virtually had to close down,” Ms Gehrke said.

While leasing the building to another company, Mr Elmer operated part-time in a shed on the opposite side of Rocky Street, drawing on his early years as a struggling backyard furniture maker to build new stock.

“He couldn’t get furniture out of his blood and eventually, when the other business moved out, he was able to re-open for mornings only, with just two staff.

“Since then, Elmer’s furniture store has gone from strength to strength.”

Mr Elmer lost his battle with cancer in May 2007, aged 75 years. His wife Denise continues as a director, however Ms Gehrke, one of 13 siblings, is the only family member still actively working at the store.

“Various sons and grandsons have put in some good years and still have some input with advice.”

Ms Gehrke said her father’s legacy was in good hands with a recent staff meeting reaffirming the company’s brand.

“Dad did things by the seat of his pants but with his departure and his effect waning, it’s a good time to reaffirm our message to customers – friendly, knowledgeable service from a local family owned business, the biggest range in the Wide Bay, free delivery that day and flexible payments options.”



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