March 1st 2005
The early years
Garry Deegan and his family first became involved with the archery business in the nineteen seventies and some time later, purchased the business known as Abbey Archery which had its beginnings in March 1975, from Mal Conomy. Contrary to expectation, the Abbey Archery name was not selected by Conomy for its English flavour or to conjure up past days and William Tell, but because the name would appear as the first archery company listing in Yellow Pages !
Involved in Archery
Active in the sport of archery since 1966, Garry Deegan joined the Northern Archers of Sydney. He held a number of offices in that club and later was president of Epping Foresters, Ku-ring-gai Bowmen and the National League of Longbowmen. He was an officer of the Archery Society of New South Wales for 19 consecutive years and at one time a member of the Board of Governors of Archery Australia.
His father, Alf Deegan did not have experience in archery but had previously been in business and so provided the initial capital to allow the business to grow. Alf had been involved in the building industry and was a dab hand at building things, solid and tough and this is borne out by multi-tiered shelves built by Alf which are still in use to this very day. Alf was Abbey's first sales representative and would take off in his car and call on dealers making regular trips throughout New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, taking orders and ensuring they were despatched upon his return to Sydney. Even to this day, some of Abbey's older dealers still talk fondly of Alf calling on them.
Trouble with importing
Upon purchasing the business, one of the first setbacks was that archery goods imported from the USA were lost en route to Australia. It was an expensive learning experience for the new owners of Abbey about the vagaries and intricacies of importing and as a result from then on, all customs and import documentation was done in-house. Most of the imports were picked up directly from the docks and in the early days, unloaded on the front lawn at Garry's home and stored at his home. It must have been a sight seeing goods arrive on a large truck in a quiet suburban street, unloaded, opened and checked off and then taken inside the home. It was a real challenge if the weather turned nasty during unloading with more hands needed to help out to get everything under cover quickly.
Indeed a lot of professional work was done in-house, including conveyancing, when it came to buying the first commercial premises. In the early years, the business was located on the north shore, in the Sydney suburb of Wahroonga, then for a number of years in Lindfield, before moving to commercial premises in Coxs Road, North Ryde. Coxs Road provided more storage for the expanding business, being a former Commonwealth Bank premises and then for about fifteen years at larger premises in the industrial area of Chatswood. Each move represented a bigger operating space.
JMR Archery Manufacturing Co
Along the way other businesses were bought; one of these was JMR Archery Manufacturing Co, which enabled the manufacture of a wide range of leather accessories for archery. JMR had been trading in Brisbane for quite a while and was purchased by Abbey and its operation moved to Sydney. Significant investment was made at the time to upgrade the JMR plant and equipment. It is interesting that Abbey has returned to Brisbane, where JMR first operated, with the impending opening of Abbey's second retail store. Some diversification was outside of the archery area and into areas like knives, camping goods and even hi-fi equipment. There was mixed success with some of these business ventures but the archery business always looked towards growth and integrity.
Move to Castle Hill on change of owners
As Garry's family grew up and married, none of his offspring was interested in carrying on the business and Garry did not want the business to close and rather than place the business on the market, he offered it to the current owners of Abbey, whom he knew would have the drive and ability to run the business and they purchased it in 2001 and moved it to the geographical centre of Sydney at Castle Hill, in the north west, in a modern warehouse, factory, office and pro shop. Abbey's accent has been on providing top service and this has become their hallmark. The other challenges are to maintain adequate stock levels and to expand the stock range.
Attend annual US archery trade shows
For some 20 years, Abbey has attended the Annual Archery Trade Show in the USA where upwards of 450 exhibitors present their new products to the market place. Assessing products and finding out how they work and if they will suit and stand up to our local conditions are just some of the considerations as well as attending seminars presented by authorities on their subject. This is a daunting and exhausting time, staged over three days; the convention centre is about double the size of any centre we have here in Australia.
Expanded JMR leather product range
Leather production by our associate company, JMR Leather Manufacturing Co, has significantly increased. From shooting gloves, all types of armguards and finger tabs to quivers, all finished in the finest leather in very attractive colours. They also produce compound bow cases made of American cordura in a camo colour; these bags are padded with full zipper closure and strong webbing handles and are quite popular.
Large range, quality and service
The variety of products carried has grown rapidly to where Abbey now stocks 3,600 items. It is quite easy for anyone to buy product solely on price; it is another matter to buy a quality product. Whether it be a big ticket item like a bow or small items like a nokset or a release rope, Abbey has always pursued a policy of quality first. The company sells quality products that ensure satisfaction and enjoyment for the shooter and has always aligned itself with long-standing, reliable and ethical manufacturers. They have forged very close and strong relationships with these companies and in a lot of cases are their exclusive representative and distributor in Australia. Abbey Archery customers can have peace of mind knowing the products Abbey sell are the best in archery and if anything does go wrong, the customer will receive back up service.
Abbey 4.5 Tonne Pantechnicon Truck
A need to service customers was identified, especially those customers living in far flung places. The first representative, Brian Westerhout, has a great love, more like a passion, for his life long sport of archery. He took delivery of a station wagon and then very soon procured a trailer to carry extra stock, but in the space of three months and a set of new tyres later, it was recognised a pantechnicon truck was needed to take products to our customers.
The truck was an instant success as the orders were delivered there and then and the dealer found it most beneficial as he was exposed to products that he had only seen before in a catalogue. As well, Brian could speak from experience and recommend products for the dealer to stock, so much so that the dealer built up trust in Brian's judgement of what would sell in his shop and this was amply demonstrated by the dealer re-purchasing that item next time Brian called on him. A funny aside is that Abbey occasionally receives phone calls from a store saying they sighted the truck going through town and can Brian call in next time he is passing. Occasionally people tell us how they saw our truck on the road, took down our details and that is how they knew Abbey existed. So our truck signage is well worthwhile.
Truck attends many shoots
The truck was out on the road for long periods and the need to make it pay for itself became apparent early in the piece. The truck trips were often planned to coincide with shoots and this involved camping for the whole week end at the archery club to assist archers with setting up, tuning their equipment and string making and displaying and demonstrating the latest archery gear which the local archers may have only seen in magazines.
Brisbane store planned
Brian saw the need to open a store in Brisbane and so Abbey employed a new representative, Alec, who is familiar with many dealers around Australia, to assume Brian's role. This allowed Brian to plan the Brisbane store, which has been on the drawing boards for about 18 months. Finding suitable premises in a fairly central Brisbane location involved a lot of searching and Brian had his 'scouts' out keeping him informed of any places that may suit Abbey's needs.
The decision was taken early this year to lease the Sumner Park premises, which is in an industrial area in a strip shopping complex. This year was an extremely hot summer and Brian spent many weeks drawing up plans, acquiring building supplies and actually doing most of the installation and fit out of the store with the help of Jeanette, our store Manager, working long into the night with Brian camping out in the upstairs offices as the premises had not been alarmed back to base. And all of this work took place while the air conditioning unit was out of service! Customers have commented favourably about the store and its large and varied stock range.
Sagittarius Archery Supplies merges with Abbey
A large portion of Abbey's customer base has always been located in Queensland and it is a natural progression for Abbey to open a new store in Brisbane to cater for their needs. The same friendly Abbey service and meeting customers' needs will still be there and they will be greeted by its Manager, Jeanette Dowd who is well known extensively in bowhunting circles both as a competitor, coach and administrator. With husband Kevin and 2 daughters Katie and Shayna, they attend many archery events in Queensland and northern New South Wales. Abbey was also most fortunate in securing the reliable experience and knowledge of its assistant manager, Keith Munday. Keith is well known as the proprietor of Sagittarius Archery Supplies which merged with Abbey.
Abbey Archery's trading hours are between 9am and 6pm Monday to Friday, Thursday till 8pm, Saturday 8am till 1pm so that customers can call in to its store in Sumner Park, which is just off the Centenary Highway, before or after work. The store is also well situated for Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast customers where they can look forward to meeting Abbey's friendly staff.
Abbey Archery has always taken a keen interest in providing great service to its customers and hopes to carry on its proud tradition.
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