What does it take for a family mechanic business to survive and thrive for over 75 years? Dore Bros owner Matthew Dore – grandson of one of its founders – explains all.
The sign mounted proudly on the side of the workshop says Dore Bros Garage, Est. 1946. Some 75 years after this business started, I’m greeted at the office my Matthew Dore, grandson of one of its founders. Three-quarters of a century later, quite incredibly, this workshop just off the main highway in Gympie, Queensland, remains a family business.
Although ever-growing, Gympie still has the feel of a small country town. In places like this, word-of-mouth is everything if yo want to remain in business. “If you don’t do the right thing in a small place you won’t last five minutes,” Matthew says while busy under the bonnet of a local’s Toyota HiLux. “The key to us being here for so long is doing the right thing by people. That’s the most important thing.”
Over the 75 years Dore Bros has had three different owners – all from the same family – and three different premises, each within a stone’s throw of the other but larger each time to provide a bigger and better service. “My Grandfather Max helped set it up with his brother Harold when he came back from the war,” says Matthew. “There wasn’t much going on, they had no jobs, so their father built them a refrigeration and mechanical workshop.”
In 1986 the reins were handed to Bernard Dore, and in 2021 his son Matthew became the owner. Wonderfully, Dore Bros Garage maintained some if its very first customers throughout their lives. Local Gympie resident Clyde Kunst used the garage from when it opened its doors in 1946 up until his passing in 2017, age 94.
Back in those early days the locals’ needs were quite different. There was a big dairy and timber industry in these parts, so Max and Harold worked a lot on cream trucks, logging trucks, bulldozers and other heavy equipment. Cars were more of a rarity.
These days it’s all change. There’s no longer the single petrol bowser and cream trucks out the front, rather lots of cars, utes and 4x4s. The bulk of the work is mechanical repairs and servicing, air conditioning and LPG conversions, roadworthys, brake and clutch repairs, and installing auxiliary battery systems. Matthew has two other qualified mechanics helping him on the tools, there’s an apprentice while the allimportant books up the front are handled by Matthew’s partner Holly.
Matthew grew up around the workshop, but it was not inevitable he’d take over the business. “I had plans to do other things which never happened, so I thought I’d go down there and work at the garage instead, and I’ve never left,” he explains.
Old fashioned courtesy is obvious. There’s an early-bird key drop off, free battery testing, free fitting a replacement battery, free car wash with your service and free local drop-off and pickup. Showing community ties, there’s even a Justice of the Peace on staff to sign customers’ official documents while they wait.
In a place like this, the regulars must take priority. There are lots of farmers in the region and if their vehicles have a problem this can bring an abrupt halt to the work – they can’t afford to be hanging around for repairs. “There are lots of farm vehicles and they’re our regular customers,” says Matthew. “They take priority over what happens. When their vehicles come in they’re often buggered and it’s got to happen straight away. We’ve got to make it happen.”
The town of Gympie has experienced something of a boom in the last couple of years and that’s changed the workflow at Dore Bros Garage. “In the ten years since I bought it we’ve always been up and down; there’s been busy months then quiet ones,” says Matthew. “But for the last two years there’s not been one quiet time. It’s crazy and very draining.”
He says parts supply has been a big issue – something experienced across Australia and globally – while he’s had to tell customers booking a service that it’s not the usual three or four day wait, but sometimes up to a month. “We’ve been booked out for four weeks,” he says. “It means when you get breakdowns it’s hard to help them, which isn’t good. A lot of people travel through here and they can get stuck if none of us can help them.”
As for the future, Matthew says there’s every chance the garage will reach its centenary with a Dore still at the helm. “We’ve got three children; one in his first year of Law in Brisbane, and the other two are in primary school so we don’t know yet,” he says. “All my brothers and sisters have lots of children and some of my nephews come down and do a bit of work for us part-time, and shown interest in it. It’s likely one of them will come through.”
There’s something deeply impressive about a business surviving and thriving for so long, and is testament to the honest practices instilled in Matthew and clearly his father and grandfather before him. The vehicles and work may have changed exponentially in 75 years, but proper customer service and doing the right thing by people is as important now as it was in 1946.
For more information visit www.dorebrosgarage.com