End of an era as couple say farewell

Tessa Randello

After 44 years of serving the community, the much-loved owners of Morwell business Gippsland Furniture House are preparing to shut up shop.

Husband and wife Gerry and Rhonda Van Dyke are part of the furniture on Commercial Road, where they have been based for the best part of four decades.

The shop started out as a specialist cane store and was initially called Wicker World.

Mrs Van Dyke said she was in hospital with their first-born child when husband Gerry told her that he wanted to buy a shop in 1976.

Wicker World ran for a few years before moving to George Street and finally the couple moved their business back to Commercial Road as Gippsland Furniture House.

Mr Van Dyke said business was a completely different ball game in the 70s.

“When we started Rhonda would take the car and I would take the bus to work and once a week I would take the car and a trailer to Melbourne for stock,” he told The Express.

“It has been hard work and long hours; we did everything ourselves as we grew we started to get some staff.

“Twenty years ago we purchased the former Ericsson building which we used as a manufacturing facility.”

The couple have had many happy repeat customers over the years and enjoyed helping out in anyway possible.

“We provided a special service for our customers, we have also really looked after our customers over the years,” he said.

“I can remember young mums coming in with their prams and the babies have grown up, bought their own furniture and then they come in with their prams and their children.”

Morwell resident Gwen Harris said the Van Dykes have become more like friends over the years after they helped her back onto her feet when she fell on hard times.

“When I moved into the area I was going through some tough times, I had a house, my dog and a blow-up mattress,” Ms Harris said.

“I walked into their store and started looking around and told them I couldn’t afford the things I needed yet.

“They were so trustworthy, and so friendly, within a week I had a beautiful bed and a mattress and I never paid a dollar, they trusted me to pay themback when I could.

“That’s the sort of people that we are going to lose in that store they were just magnificent people. “

The couple said they have loved their time running Gippsland Furniture House but are eager to enjoy their well-earned retirement.

Mrs Van Dyke said they can’t wait to spend more time with their four children and 12 grandchildren, some of which have moved out of the area.

“It has come time for us to move on,” she said.

“Gerry wants to buy a van and become grey nomads, we can travel but we don’t want to move away, we love it here but want to travel around a bit.

“We would like to thank all of our loyal customers and our staff, we have had many of them and a few gave us over 10 years of service.”