Hugh O'Toole (aka Bert O'Toole) established this Produce Merchant business in 1922.
He and his brothers were potato farmers at Illowa on the coast of south-west Victoria, farming the highly fertile volcanic soil on the east flank of Tower Hill (a collapsed caldera).
In order to promote their own produce and that of their neighbours, Bert became a produce merchant and a well-known identity in the district using his marketing skills to great effect.
Basing the business at Illowa Railway Station was crucial to his success as the local farmers had to haul their harvested, bagged potatoes by horse and dray to the station to be carried by rail carriages to the Melbourne Market.
Bert also made good use of the local meeting place for the district, the Illowa Hotel, to secure produce for his distant customers.
Identifying the flexibility that vehicular trucks would afford his business, Bert purchased several Chev trucks during the 1930s as such trucks became more readily available and affordable. These trucks were essential to the growth of the Produce Merchant business as the bagged potatoes could be loaded in the paddock directly on to these trucks that would transport the potatoes directly to the Melbourne Market.
The move to road transportation was commercially enterprising leading to improved production and income. The benefits of efficiency and timeliness included:
less handling of the produce
time saved between paddock and customer
deliveries despatched to towns and localities not on the rail network
Kevin O'Toole, oldest son of Hugh O'Toole, took over the business in the late 1950s. Kevin was a very energetic and hard-working farmer and Produce Merchant and continued to grow the business.
With the acquisition of larger transports Kevin was able to deliver the potatoes of his area to Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide Produce Markets.
Kevin's son, Paul worked with him in the business for several years until Kevin's retirement as a Produce Merchant. Paul took over the business in the early 1980s.
The acreage devoted to the growing of potatoes in the district declined during the 1980s as dairying became much more profitable. An area that had once provided a livelihood for five local Produce Merchants was rapidly declining in importance for potato production as other production areas opened up in the south-east of South Australia and the Murray irrigation areas of New South Wales.
With his knowledge about the wholesale produce industry and his own marketing skills, Paul opted to relocate the business to Brisbane in the early 1990s to take advantage of the customer base there that the business had developed over the years.
Anchored in the Brisbane Produce Market, the business is now a very different business to the farm-based business of Hugh O'Toole's days.
But the marketing skills and deep knowledge of the produce industry are the same and Paul is proudly working alongside his sons Timothy and Matthew to continue to serve our valued customers with the very best produce that can be sourced for their requirements.
While our story is one of an evolution from a country railway station with one wall-based telephone and transportation by horse and dray to a busy metropolitan produce merchant business relying on smart phones, emails, messaging, palletisation, bulk-bags, half tonne bins, forklifts and dellivery trucks, a loyal workforce of hard working staff members has been the continuing theme across those years.
The hallmark of a successful Wholesale Produce Merchant business is that of strong and trusted business relationships with both our suppliers and customers.
We believe that Hugh and Kevin O'Toole would be proud to see how this third and fourth generation business has evolved from their dreams and hard work and continues to provide good service to our clients.