With the utmost respect, Andrew Kies doesn’t seem the type to have been ‘revvin’ up the highway to the Danger Zone’ with Kenny Loggins on the AM radio, or trying a few moves on the dance floor at Bojangles, once THE city nightclub at the Newmarket Hotel.
This was 1986, a far cry to now selling nuts ‘n bolts in his Home Timber and Hardware store at Goolwa, but nothing else has really changed.
Andrew still drives his dad’s burgundy Holden Statesman WB from that era, firing its eight cylinders on a dreadfully cold Murray River morning. There’s a tad of rust now, but even after more clicks than opening day at the last Royal Adelaide Show turnstiles – 354,000 to be precise – there’s no thought of a trade-in.
Maybe we just couldn’t see what kind of bloke he was under those old disco strobe lights, or behind his sunglasses at the wheel. Whatever, whether in the surrounds of pubs and clubs over 21 years or since 2004 in his hardware store, his feet have always been planted firmly on the ground; a proud Christian, always one of life’s true gentleman with uncompromising values.
But Andrew in Bojangles? Yep, it’s true.
After being raised in suburban Enfield and at a fruit block at Monash, in 1981 his family business ran pubs in places like Pinnaroo, Gawler, Kadina, Strathalbyn, and in 1981 the Goolwa Hotel.
The move into the Newmarket and its disco for four years coincided with 24 per cent interest rates, sending the business broke.
“We had to sell everything, and my wife Maxine and I bought a deli at Crystal Brook,” Andrew said. “Things were tough, but I have been lucky to have had such a strong wife, and together we got through everything.
“Nine Stateliner buses stopped at our shop every day; it’s amazing the money you can make out of hamburgers when you make them yourself. We worked hard for two years and got ourselves back on our feet. My word it was a lot of hamburgers.
“We came back and bought the Royal Family Hotel at Port Elliot, and had it for 18 months when the Goolwa Hotel came back on market. Unfortunately, after four years as tenant we couldn’t match the price at auction when it was sold freehold.
“The hotel experience taught me to be really strong; to believe in yourself. Lots of people say, oh, I can’t do this or that, but I’ve learnt that you can give it your best shot if you’re strong. I believe in God. That’s my strength; it makes me resilient.”
John and Maxine were running the bottle shop in Mount Compass when John Wright, who had a little hardware store opposite the then State Bank, walked in and asked if they wanted to buy his business.
“Amongst all the moving around in pubs I worked for a mate building houses for two years,” Andrew said. “I had that hands on experience; always fixing something and learning tricks of the trade.
“Being in the pub across the road from the hardware store that old Pop Maynard had, and watching John, a computer wizard who was writing programs as a Professor at UniSA, take over and do really well made me think I could also run a hardware store.”
The key was that John had a computer on his left with the item and price on it, and another on which he rang up the price. It made him seem like a hardware expert, and with that confidence, and having worked for two years in between hotel stints helping a mate build houses, Andrew had no hesitation in going into the hardware game.
Today Kies Home Timber and Hardware provides a great service to the region. It employs 10 people, and has just got bigger with a new trade centre facility plus off-street parking for 40 cars.
“People say to me there’s a big difference between grog and hardware, but they’re both only a product,” Andrew said. “It all gets back to the fact that everything in life is about people; always.
“It was my way of getting back to Goolwa to live; it’s such a great place. The people are good here, my word they are.”
And always being a man of kindness and about life values, Andrew has strongly supported communities. He knows the “big boys” can move into the region and open up shop, and he’s seen it when the local clubs and groups forget how the small guys had always supported them. He shrugged his shoulders and said: “That’s life, and if you don’t look after the community it will struggle.”
Andrew loves life, particularly through his family – he and Maxine have two sons, Nigel, who works in the store, and Shaun, who is a hydrogeologist, and a grandson, aged five. Andrew just sees himself as someone who likes the simple things and the values of life. “I enjoy a red wine,” he says.
“I enjoy mixing with customers; if you’re having a bad say someone will brighten it up with a bit of shiacking.”
With a broad smile, Andrew said: “And I love the Crows.” When told not even a hardware store man who has been into the Danger Zone with Kenny Loggins could fix some of their problems, he laughed. It’s what Andrew does best; enjoying the lighter side of life. Thank you Andrew.