Mike Williams Country Clothing is celebrating 30 years in business and for owners Mike and Jo Williams, the journey has been very much a family affair.
For three decades Mike and Jo’s store has outfitted Toowoomba and the Downs region with craftsmanship worthy of any Australian bushman. During that time Mike moved into local government, and Jo continued running the business day to day. “For the first 20 years, It was very much a partnership,” says Mike. “Jo was doing a lot of the buying and displays and I did the bookwork. But for the last 10 years, Jo has been the boss and she tells me that. The shop has just gone from strength to strength.”
Mike Williams is the son of iconic Australian bushman and clothing manufacturer RM Williams. Retail and rural resilience are therefore not learned skills for Mike; they are in his blood. Born and raised in Toowoomba, Mike moved to Adelaide to work for his father’s business, before moving back home to the Garden City when the RM Williams brand was taken over. Back in his home town, Mike was sure their country clothing retail business would prosper. Taking a dose of “true blue” courage before deciding to open his own store, he watched it grow as his family expanded.
“Jo and I have worked together for our whole lives. We’ve brought our kids up in the Toowoomba region. For those who have shopped with us for the last 30 years they will know the kids as they came to work with us playing around the shop!”
Mike’s presence in the community as a retailer has allowed him to get to know the people he now represents in government. Jo often playfully scolds him at farm festivals for talking about local issues instead of hawking their wares. “Retail is all about people and local government is all about people. In retail, you talk to people and you understand them. Being in government is pretty much the same thing. You have to be able to connect and understand what the people want.”
For a local family run business, reaching 30 years is a landmark moment. Mike puts their success down to staying true to their purpose, to provide clothing perfected for the rural way of life. When they started Mike Williams Country Clothing, it was the only place for rural style and functionality in the area, despite some following suit since, says Mike. “We have tried pretty hard to stay close to our roots, to be a genuine country person’s store. Now, what we are and what we sell has changed dramatically over the years. It’s what you must do if you want to stay in business. It’s a particular way of life and a particular style of clothing.”
Celebrations are being planned to commemorate the local store’s milestone. Meanwhile the RM Williams name will continue to live on as an icon across rural Australia.
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