End of an era: Bowen store to close after 70 years
HEARING the words "I love my mattress" ring out across the supermarket is among the cherished memories David and Bronwyn Rynn will take with them when they close the doors of their historic Bowen store.
The Bowen Furnishing Co owners are preparing to say goodbye to the longstanding shop, which has occupied a grand building in the centre of Bowen for 70 years.
While they may not have been the ones to first open the store all those years ago, they both have ties to the shop that go back decades.
The store was opened by T. B. Woods in the early 1950s but was bought by the Robinson family, known as "Robbos", in 1957.
Mr Rynn picked up his first job with the Robinsons in 1975 doing deliveries and has continued to work at the business ever since.
He said a lot had changed since he started, when Bowen was more isolated from other locations and stock had to be transported by train wrapped in cardboard and paper.
"Originally there were no landlines or credit cards or anything like that," he said.
"Everything was Australian made, there was virtually nothing imported in those days."
Mrs Rynn's father also worked at the business as his first job, putting in a five-year stint and then an 11-year stint when the Robinsons took over.
In 2002, Mr and Mrs Rynn decided to buy the business and have been operating it ever since.
They also ran a sister shop in Collinsville before it closed in 2015.
"I'd been working here all my life and they wanted to retire so I was 41 and had to buy a job basically," Mr Rynn said.
The pair have always taken on hands-on roles, with Mr Rynn doing floor laying and Mrs Rynn doing customer service and admin.
Mrs Rynn said taking on the business was a big undertaking with four children in primary school.
She would spend long nights doing bookwork until as late as 3am, then wake to make school lunches.
But the four children - Nathan, Travis, Elise and Renee - came to be involved in the business too with Travis taking a significant interest.
Travis' wife Rebecca also worked at the business for 10 years.
Running the store has not been without its challenges, as the pair endured Cyclone Debbie and the damage done to three out of five sections of the store, as well as floodwaters seeping into their containers.
"We were down here, no water, moving stock, moving furniture," Mrs Rynn said.
"But then we had to focus on our customers."
More recently the COVID-19 pandemic has affected them, impacting product supplies.
"You just keep pushing through, head down, bum up," Mr Rynn said.
"Sometimes there doesn't seem to be an end to it so don't think too far ahead."
But there are also plenty of happy memories, like weekends spent with friends, family and former staff running shed sales for the community, where they would turn their warehouse into a showroom for a weekend.
They were also in the thick of the action when the film Australia was shot in Bowen, watching cattle being herded in the red dirt covered streets around their corner store.
Mrs Rynn said they always tried to deliver top service and when she heard people yell across the supermarket "Bronwyn, I love my mattress", it showed they were on the right track.
"We've had people bring their babies in and show us," Mrs Rynn said of the generations of Bowen customers they had served.
"We'll miss that."
Mr Rynn said sometimes people who had not seen them for years dropped in to the store to see whether the pair were still there.
"They start off as customers and become friends," he said.
When the building they had been occupying was put up for sale, they had discussions with the building owners and decided it was the right time to retire and start a new chapter.
There is not a firm closure date as yet, but they plan to shut before Christmas.
The pair extended thanks to their staff over the years, the community and their family for their support.
"The closing of a successful family owned and operated business after 70 years of operation is the end of an era," Mrs Rynn said.
"We acknowledge that this is yet another loss to our town and community of which we are very much a part.
"When it has been such a big part of our lives, it is hard to have it come to a close.
"However, it is time to start the next chapter of our lives, be kinder to our backs and knees, spend more time with family, enjoy our grandchildren and to have time to smell the roses."