The name Iser has been synonymous with hardware in Bendigo for more than a century and now it has been recognised on a national stage.
Bendigo businessman Stephen Iser was honoured last month at the National Independent Hardware Group Awards of Excellence as the latest inductee in the group's hall of fame.
He described the honour as "one of the highlights of my life".
"I'm very fortunate to join an elite bunch of people and families who have contributed to the hardware industry for a long time."
Mr Iser has worked in the family business - now Hume & Iser Mitre 10 - for 50 years while his family had been involved in the hardware industry for an incredible 143 years.
Half a century of service to family business
"I started here straight from school when the place was a rundown, ramshackle old building previously the original Sawmills Hotel," Mr Iser said.
"I started here as a 17-year-old and worked in every department through the business, eventually becoming sales manager and then managing director in 1994.
"Since then, I think I've been involved in about three or four developments remodeling the business and rebuilding the business."
Mr Iser said he could just remember his grandfather working in the business before he died, but the history goes back to even older generations.
"Then my father worked here, and all my uncles and cousins," he said.
"It was a lovely environment but it was hard, difficult work when my father was here in particular, and my great uncle, who was the managing director of the time.
"He was a hard-working man that just wanted to do everything manually - he didn't want machinery - and so for my father and his brothers it was very difficult.
"But since then, technology and equipment has come in and made it a lot easier."
Change necessary for business to flourish
Mr Iser said if the company did not change over the years, the family would not have had a business.
"We've changed every year with new initiatives, just different ways to do business and stuff like that," he said.
"Shows like The Block and Better Homes and Gardens where they show people how you can do a room up for $200 - that's just been a boon for us.
"Everyone's into DIY and doing their own stuff and, in particular, with the pandemic, that was just unbelievable for us.
"Everyone was locked up in home and they were doing stuff at home."
The business joined Mitre 10 about five years ago and Mr Iser said it had resulted in a huge improvement in the operations as well.
He said despite current difficulties with interest rates and the cost of living, he was confident the team would make it through.
"The current climate with interest rates and the cost of living, it's in your face every day," Mr Iser said.
"Look, I've been here that long that I've seen it come and go; I've been here when interest rates were 20 per cent - that nearly killed us but we got through it."
He recalled that 1990 recession, which Paul Keating described as "the recession we had to have", as having caused sales to drop by 50 per cent overnight.
"If we (had not had) some good assets to sell we probably wouldn't be here, it's simple as that," Mr Iser said.
"It was very, very tough."
Family support milestone recognition
All that hard work and more was celebrated last month as Mr Iser joined other notable identities within the hardware hall of fame, the culmination of six months of secret planning for his wife and daughter.
"My entire family kept it a secret," he said.
"I had no idea and I was up there with my wife and our CEO, and my hardware manager and my timber manager.
"I was told to go up there because we won the Victorian large format Mitre 10 store so we could be (in the running for) the national large format store of the year too."
The last event for the night was the hall of fame announcement and it proved a bit of a shock.
"It just hit me like a ton of bricks so I was walking up the stairs and my wife (Gail) was behind me and I didn't hear any of what they were announcing," he said.
"Then Gail said look who is here and it was my son, daughter, daughter-in-law and our five grandchildren."
Mr Iser said the moment was one of the highlights of his long career and he is now enjoying retirement although he remains a part-owner and director.
"You just get time back, you've got time to do things without being under the pump," he said.
"When you're a business owner you're always here seven days a week and on the phone on weekends, you're never away from it."
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