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Member Catch up with Alicia Meet Gill & Co

Gill & Co

 

Pictured: David & Rebecca Gill with the original neon sign from the sixties

 

When doing a member story, we usually like to go and sit down with our member, have a look around the business and listen to interesting stories and talk about how the company started and the direction it is now heading. Now in the new world of COVID, we interviewed David Gill via phone. I had a great catch up with David, who is third generation ‘Gill’ managing director of Brisbane’s local merchant ‘Gill & Co’. We chatted about the history of Gill & Co, the current marketplace in Brisbane and the direction David and his wife Rebecca are taking the business. We also spoke about David’s love of music, and how it relates to the timber industry as many musical instruments are made out of wood. Catching up, I couldn’t not mention the very memorable advertising Brisbane locals will clearly remember. For everyone else’s benefit, let’s just say the advertising would probably be considered ‘taboo’ in today’s world, but back in the 80’s and 90’s it was a successful campaign with both complaints and many compliments!

 

Lynwood Lawrence Gill registered Gill & Co in 1926 and operated in the heart of Brisbane, which is now the site of the ANZ Bank on Queen Street. Lynwood started purely as a trader carrying no stock. As business prospered, the company was able to purchase a sawmill in 1938 at Roseberry, just north of Kyogle in Northern NSW. In 1950, the company sold this site to Hancock and Gore Ltd and used sale proceeds both to expand the merchant side of the business during 1950 and 1952, and to purchase the 3-acre Rocklea site. During the mid-1950s, John Gill (Lynwood’s son) took over managing the business. In 1967 part of the land was resumed by Main Roads Department of Queensland for the new Ipswich Rd Overpass. The site, now being beside the main road, helped the business grow as the area around it also rapidly expanded. 1960 saw the purchase of a second merchant site at Cleveland, and it was an instant success as it was the only timber yard for a radius of 15-25 kms. The business grew during the 1970s, resulting in the operations moving to a larger location in Cleveland with facilities to store stock undercover. The company still operates from Cleveland today. In 1992, Gill & Co opened a truss plant operating in Geebung successfully for over a decade.

 

David joined the business in 1986 at the age of 12, cleaning toilets and trucks. Over the years he moved around the business, working on the floor, and once he finished high school, he moved into the office and not long after that started managing the Cleveland branch. He was destined to be in the business (third generation Gill) and to look after his parents, both of whom were still directors. I asked David if he ever had any other ambitions outside of the timber industry, and he answered ‘I wanted to be a Rock Star’. So even though managing the family business is his full-time job, along with caring for his mother who is still a director of Gill & Co, it has never kept David away from songwriting and making albums. But more importantly being heavily involved with Bay FM, a community radio station. David loves supporting those who love music and feels he can give back to the community through music. Ironically, Gill & Co is quite famous for their jingle, ‘John Gill, the Timber Man’ which ran for over thirty years, and now David has had fun in the studio modernising the jingle to ‘Gill & Co, is where to go.’

 

In 2016, the local Brisbane timber industry lost an Industry icon in John Gill, however he left the business in safe hands with his son. David has spent the past few years trying to streamline and cut costs. Almost three years ago after constant flooding (I will never forget spending one-week scrubbing mud off nuts and bolts after the 2011 flooding) and with staffing issues, David decided to close the Rocklea branch and move everything to one site. ‘I wanted to trim the fat before considering expanding again’. David believes you can’t get bigger and better until you have fine-tuned your operation. He is also a firm believer in helping the community, and that starts with your staff. David’s wife Rebecca manages the Cleveland site after starting at Gill & Co 16 years ago. David said having Rebecca managing the site is a huge benefit as she has good morals, and she is someone he can trust completely. There is just under 15 staff at Cleveland, some of which have been there for decades,  and they are all ‘mates’ celebrating birthdays every year.

 

Gill & Co today stock a range of products with a massive drive-through warehouse that makes picking up supplies quick and easy. They also deliver right across South East Queensland and to the Bay Islands.

 

Since COVID, business has been booming and Gill & Co is in an excellent position to move forward. They are currently doing significant renovations with new offices and expanding the hardware section with more products and storage. David told me ‘we are not going anywhere and we are in it for the long haul’. Who knows, there could even be the 4th generation of Gill’s coming through the business if either of David’s two daughters joins the company or if any of his three brothers (who are all shareholders) children want to join the family business. Congratulations to David, Rebecca and the team on such a successful long-term family business and we look forward to celebrating 100 years with you in 2026!