It's impossible to miss the massive building that houses Tuakau ITM. At 50 metres long, covering 1300 square metres, it looms large over the town.
For Glenn (Podge) Graham, the third generation owner of the bulding supplies company, it's a dream come true. The new building is his baby; he conceived the design and watched it grow.
“I used to sit in my old office and envisage what I wanted, and it's turned out exactly as I planned. It's all timber construction – it demonstrates what you can do with wood.”
Airy and spacious, the interior houses anything and everything the builder, handyperson or DIY enthusiast could possibly need. From nails to noggins, power tools to paint, taps to towel rails, everything hardware is displayed and easy to find – and if you can't, a friendly and efficient staff member will be on hand to help.
Many of the staff have been with Tuakau ITM for years, so they really know their stuff. Podge, and his wife Zalene, who also works there, regard them as family.
The drive-through timber section, stocking a huge variety of products including framing, trusses, flooring, roofing, roundwood, and fencing materials, allows for easy selection and loading.
Tuakau ITM has four timber yards in total, “but we're not just a timber merchant,” Podge points out.
“We can provide everything needed for a house, from letterboxes to insulation and even materials for the garden. We stock landscaping supplies including mulch, bark, sand and metal – and the tools to keep the garden looking good.”
There's always a use for timber on the farm, and Tuakau ITM is geared up to help. As a part time farmer himself, Podge knows what's needed.
“Farm buildings are a massive part of our business. Barns, stables, packing sheds - whatever the purpose, we will sit down with the customer and come up with a design that will work for their particular situation. We'll get it engineered, help with consents, even help find a builder if necessary. We have peelings for bedding in calf sheds too.
“And we can deliver all materials and essentials onsite, right down to the portaloo.”
Tuakau ITM has several vehicles available for deliveries, but they don't include the Model A Ford in pride of place at the front of the building – although Podge insists it's still in good working condition.
“It cruises! We had it done up for the 50th anniversary of the business. I've used it to tow the boat to Port Waikato and it didn't take much longer than a modern car.”
Like many of his rural customers, Podge is a dedicated hunter and fisher. It's one of the things he loves about the area in which he's grown up, something he can share with the local community. To him, providing service and helping out where he can is a major reason for being in business.
“If I look after people, they'll look after me,” he says. And look after locals he does. Schools, sports clubs, kids' activities, charities, there's hardly a Tuakau institution he hasn't helped out, whether it's supplying sign boards, building stands for community swaps, or just providing assistance where it's needed.
“You've got to have strong sports clubs and local organisations to build a strong community. People meet each other and make friends through them, that's what binds the community together.
“There's a wonderful spirit in this area and some fantastic people. Lots of them could be featured in Good Sorts on TV.”
Maybe that should include Podge too. He tells of a problem faced by a Pokeno school when a dilapidated fence threatened the closure of the school pool. When Podge heard about it, he donated materials for a new fence and the pool was able to stay open.
Podge has been kept busy with the expansion of Pokeno in recent years, and is impressed with the way the town is shaping up.
“Overwhelmingly, the people moving into the area are buying into the community spirit. They're not just Jafas moving down here to get cheap housing, they're coming for the lifestyle.”
Living in a lovely rural setting is great, and it's even greater if it's possible to work close to home. No one wants to join the daily motorway battle in to work in Auckland if it can be avoided. Part of Podge's vision with his new premises has been to provide space where locals can work locally, and already it's being enthusiastically received.
Above the hardware and timber part of the business is a self-contained loft with 16 office spaces which business people can rent. It's a way to work from home without working at home.
“There's a separate entrance and coded alarm system so that tenants can come and go as it suits them, while maintaining security. It's ideal for self-employed people, with boardroom, meeting room and kitchen facilities included.
“I designed it all – right down to the paint colour and the canvases on the walls from photos I've taken on fishing trips. I'm very proud of it.
“Here at Tuakau ITM we aim to be a competitive option that supports the local community, whether that's through providing a comprehensive range of tools and materials both for professionals and for the ordinary bloke or blokess, or by helping the community to grow stronger in whatever way we can.
“We're in it for the long haul – maybe that's why we're still here after 83 years.”