Dealer Principal Bert Hayes from Hayes Toyota Murwillumbah.
Dealer Principal Bert Hayes from Hayes Toyota Murwillumbah. Scott Powick

Hayes Toyota moves with the changing times over 100 years

FROM coachbuilding to computers, when it comes to being on the move, the Tweed's Hayes family have seen it all.

They have just celebrated 100 years of operation with the family business covering a time when horse-drawn vehicles were still in vogue through to now when the age of driverless cars is almost upon us.

HAyes Toyota History
HAyes Toyota History Scott Powick

Now know as Hayes Toyota, the business has been an integral part of the South.

Murwillumbah community since Albert George (A.G) Hayes purchased a blacksmith wheel shop in 1917 before starting up his horse and cart business in February 1918.

Now run by A.G Hayes' grandson, Bert Hayes, the third-generation family-run business has seen many changes and challenges, including overcoming the one-in-100 year flood in March 2017.

Over the years, the business has grown and adapted to new technological advances in motoring but it all stems back to A.G Hayes' foresight into what the future might hold back in 1917.

"(My grandfather) obviously felt more comfortable that the war was getting won, so he signed up for (the lease),” Mr Hayes said.

"He bought three blocks of land and about 1935 he bought the fourth block of land, that was then a plumbing shop.

"They made the deal with a hand shake on the bridge, that's the way business was done then.”

HAyes Toyota History
HAyes Toyota History Scott Powick

As South Murwillumbah caught up with life post-war, A.G Hayes kept everyone moving forward when he acquired a motor vehicle franchise in the early 1920s, which quickly became one of the leading rural motor dealers between Brisbane and Newcastle.

But with only a limited amount of space and motor cars becoming more popular, A.G. Hayes quickly realised he was running out of room for the old wrecks people were exchanging for newer models.

"When people traded in old cars, wrecks, they stuck them in the horse paddock (at the front of the property on Alma St) and left them,” Mr Hayes said.

He said the space became so packed with trade-ins, they simply couldn't fit another in.

"So, my grandfather got a bulldozer in and drove over all the vintage cars to flatten them and then put soil over all the cars,” he said.

"They filled that up again and he did the same again, so there's two layers of vintage cars under there.”

And just like the layers of vintage cars beneath the soil, Hayes Toyota has built itself up from humble beginnings and has undergone many changes over the years.

HAyes Toyota History
HAyes Toyota History Scott Powick

"When World War II commenced, (we) lost the half of the staff to New Guinea to fight and as a result we couldn't sell any more,” Mr Hayes said.

"In 1946, the boys came back from war to find no car agent.”

He said Hayes started selling Austins as they were all that was available after the war.

When A.G Hayes finally retired in 1951, his two sons, Tom and Reg, took over and steered the company into the second half of the 20th century.

Their Austin agency would become BMC and later Leyland Australia, selling Minis and Morris coupes between 1950-60s.

In 1975, the two brothers became a Toyota franchise, seeing a boom in vehicle sales.

Change came again in 1979 after the sudden death of Tom, and with Reg's decision to retire - the business passed to left the men's sons, Bert and Jim.

Both were issued with an ultimatum - keep the business going or sell the family legacy.

"I'm the son of Tom and Jim was the son of Reg and we ran it as partners until Jim passed away,” Bert Hayes said.

HAyes Toyota History
HAyes Toyota History Scott Powick

"It's been a family business all that time.

"I'm third generation, my daughter (Melissa) is fourth.”

While keeping the business in the family has been a long-held tradition for the Hayes, they with also shared a long history with the town.

Their location at South Murwillumbah, just near the Murwillumbah bridge has seen them endure their fare share of natural disasters, particularly floods.

The most recent was in 2017.

As many South Murwillumbah residents struggled to save their properties during the March floods, Hayes Toyota staff were quick to put their flood plan into action, having experience many floods over the decades.

"A car is the easiest thing to move because it's got an engine, wheels and a steering wheel,” Mr Hayes said.

His staff moved all the company cars and vehicles for sale to higher ground before the flood swept through town.

"What we do is get every single one of those (cars) out, so we don't have anything to worry about,” he said.

While the cars were safe, Mr Hayes and a few staff members returned to the dealership to monitor the rising waters.

"This was the highest flood we'd ever seen,” he said.

"The last time we had water in here in that extent was 1989.

"We had 12 hours of water running through the premises.”

Despite the rising flood water, Hayes Toyota's resident pet cockatoo kept spirits high during the whole ordeal.

"We have a cockatoo we've had for years and he was up in spare parts all night with us while we were moving stock and the water was tearing past us and all he's saying is 'Oh, what a feeling, oh, what a feeling',” Mr Hayes said with a chuckle.

It's this ability to laugh during tough times and face challenges head on, whether it's floods,

technology or family tragedy, that has kept Hayes Toyota going for 100 years and will probably keep them going for the next 100 years.

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