HARLEYS Educational has become a Cairns favourite for back-to-school supplies and North Queensland’s largest scholastic supplies business in over three decades of operation.
The multi-awarded store, equal opportunity employer and family-owned and operated business was purchased on 13 September 1993 by Jenny and Kevin Austin, who had moved from Karumba to Cairns to embark on a new challenge.
According to Jenny, the couple were looking for a business that could develop and make a difference.
“As parents, we prioritised our children’s wellbeing, particularly education,” she said.
“We were therefore attracted to the idea of a school supplies business and products that would set children up for success, making schoolwork and learning easier.”
In the past three decades, the Austin family have expanded the business ten-fold, renovating and developing their English Street premises from a small office space to a spacious warehouse with quality fittings and stock in response to a growing demand for supplies by schools, tutors, students, childcare centres, and parents.
Harleys stocks 20,000 standard product lines. Hands-on learning aids and resources catering to students from early childhood to secondary school.
Jenny said Harleys is a family business that, over the years, was the workplace of her children and now employs some of her grandchildren and long-standing staff.
In 30 years, Jenny said the workforce swelled from 1.5 to 13 full-time staff and then, during back-to-school periods, peaked at 30 to service some 10,000 customers.
For Harleys clients, one of the well-known faces in the store and behind the counter is Jenny’s daughter, Kristy Vallely, who has been an integral part of the family business from the outset and in recent years, her granddaughter, 17-year-old Maya Vallely, has been welcomed into the fold.
Jenny said the best thing about working in a family business is the support, and of course, along with the blood, sweat and tears, there’s been plenty of laughter.
While the Austin family and team from Harleys stop to reflect and celebrate the remarkable achievement of 30 years, they are also looking forward to a bright future.
Today, Harleys operates a hybrid business model servicing online and retail customers’ educational and stationary needs across Australia and overseas.