The former Heilbronn clothing store at 60 William St is undergoing a revamp with a new look ready for Beef Week in May.
The former Heilbronn clothing store at 60 William St is undergoing a revamp with a new look ready for Beef Week in May. Chris Ison

Heilbronn gets facelift

ONE of Rockhampton's iconic businesses, Heilbronn and Co, located at 60 William St in the CBD, is undergoing a complete refurbishment estimated to cost about $600,000.

The demolition of the old premises that has serviced loyal clients from far afield throughout Central and Central Western Queensland will bring to an end an era of trade from there that spans over a half century.

For 42 years of that time, proprietor Murray Keepkie has worked the counters and the floor at the current premises, starting off as a junior with original owners the Heilbronn family.

"I started off here when I was 15 in 1969 working for Keith Heilbronn. Keith and his brothers Ron and Howard ran the business which they took over years before from their father.

"I'd go as far as to say that Heilbronn and Co, which was located in a few other shops around town before here, has been in business for well over 80 years," Murray said at the old premises last week.

Murray worked his way up at Heilbronn and Co and when he was 30 he bought the business which is synonymous with country clothing and saddlery.

Some 28 years on in 2012, he and wife Elaine, who has worked alongside him for 20 years, decided the time was right for a new look.

In an era where local family-owned business houses are often engulfed by multi-national franchise enterprises, Murray is in no doubt as to why Heilbronn and Co has bucked that trend.

"Customer loyalty has been the key to our successful business.

"We have very loyal customers and in many, many cases going right through the generations so to speak.

"Our customers have been very loyal to us and that is reciprocated.

"We have clients on our books from all over the place.

"I know it is an exaggeration but sometimes I feel we are sending items out to our clients as far away as the Black Stump," he jested.

While the old shop is being completed gutted - even to the extent of a new cement floor, Heilbronn and Co is trading from temporary premises in Bolsover Lane next to the ANZ Bank.

Murray expects to be back in business at 60 William St just in time for what he says is a "the" week of trade in Rockhampton for people seeking country gear for themselves and their stock.

"I'm confident we will be back there ready to meet and greet our country clients for Rocky's Beef Week which commences on May 7.

"For us it is going to be very exciting," he said.

Incidentally, Murray rates Beef Week when it is celebrated in Rockhampton as bigger than what once really drew the bush people to Rocky - show week.

"No, show week isn't what it was once. What Beef Week does for business in Rockhampton is quite extraordinary," he said.

Murray Keepkie is looking forward to extending his business and building friendly ties with his loyal customers well into the future when things get back to normal at Heilbronn and Co.



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