“It’s like a drive-through supermarket. It’s fantastic!”
That was the reaction of Riverina plumbers 20 years ago, when Southern Plumbing opened its doors in Wagga on 29 March 1999, and it’s still true to this day.
“Following news that Premier Plumbing was closing – the city’s only local independent plumbing supplies store – we saw the opportunity to expand. Without us, we knew only the big national corporations would be left in town, and given we like to keep them honest we were quick to make the move,” says Warwick Beutler, managing director of Southern Plumbing.
“As a family-owned company we’ve always had a strong connection with like-minded business owners. For this reason, some of our first Wagga customers are still with us.”
Today, Les and June Byrne remain valued supporters of Southerns. They were already trading with our Mitchell store in the 1990s until we moved closer to their home town. And Harmers Plumbing helped set up the Wagga store, becoming long-time customers and familiar faces.
When we arrived in town we employed an assorted crew of locals, including Owen Geale, Wayne Galvin, Adam Browning and Steven Smith who’d been previously employed by Premier Plumbing.
Southern Plumbing Plus team in 1999 (left), Wagga’s Southern Plumbing Plus was described as a “drive-through supermarket” (right).
Southern Plumbing’s own Iain Hamilton came over from Canberra as the store manager, as did Justin Marchant who ran the showroom for its first 18 months.
And then there was fresh-faced Glenn Jones who’s just celebrated 20 years at Southerns. Glenn has played a massive role in getting to where we are two decades later. First setting up the showroom and then working in sales, Glenn has propelled his way through the ranks to become the company’s sales director and a member of our senior management team.
Warwick Beutler, managing director (left) and Glenn Jones, sales manager (right), celebrating Glenn’s 20-year tenure in 2019.
Glenn says of the first few months setting up, “Temperatures were in the high 40’s and 50’s, and anyone who’s experienced summer in Wagga knows it can be a hard slog. For directors Warwick and Jason it was a good first introduction to the area. It was tough going for all involved but it was a great team effort and everyone contributed to the opening of the store. Then it was time to get customers!”
Gathering customers in the first few years was hard, and staff members were always asking if we were going to stay in town. It become a bit of a workplace joke.
“Our initial job was to nut out our pricing to remain competitive,” says Glenn. “But where we initially struggled on price we made up in the relationships forged with our customers. Country people value honesty, customer service and quality relationships, and that’s what we offered as their local independent. People could tell we were keeping the big guys honest and we were there to stay.”
Southern Plumbing Plus Wagga Wagga shopfront in 2002.
We remain true to this ideal today, and while our head office remains in Canberra, we view Southerns as part of the Wagga community. Our country roots remain deep.
In 2018 we completed a major renovation of our showroom, doubling the display of products and introducing several European brands to Wagga, such as Hansgrohe, Villeroy and Boch and Kaldewei. Not to mention our impressive new appliance range with Smeg, Ilve and Westinghouse.
Southern Innovations following renovations to the Wagga showroom in 2018.
And recently we welcomed back Jeff Roworth. Jeff worked at our Wagga store for over 11 years before having a stint in the transport industry. He’s re-joined the team in the new position of operations manager.
What can we expect in the next 20 years?
This year we launch our new online platform which offers plumbers and builders a one-stop shop for ordering and invoicing. We’re constantly updating our showroom displays with the latest and greatest, and new plumbing gear remains at the forefront.
We’re investing in our staff development and we continue to grow a strong and stable sales team to work with our account and retail customers.
Thank you to our customers, staff and suppliers for contributing to our first 20 years in Wagga. We look forward to everything that’s on the horizon and celebrating with you throughout the year.
Our Wagga Team
Visit your local Southern Plumbing Plus and Southern Innovations.
We are committed to supplying only reputable and quality plumbing supplies, and bathroom, kitchen and laundry products which we genuinely believe you deserve, no matter your budget.
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