Bruce Grogan and Ken Connor first met in the 1970s when both commenced their working lives with the Dandenong Valley Authority. The early 1990s saw them launch their own business. Entitled Streamtech, it specialised in designing and constructing wetlands, golf courses, stream restoration projects. In essence, it was landscaping on a grand scale. Some years further down the track, Bruce and Ken began to consider their next move.
Around this time, Ken was building his new family home. When the time came to landscape the property, in true Ken fashion, he researched every paving option in Melbourne. During his search, he came across Anston Paving Stones. This product looked different to all the others. The texture was unique, the colour superbly natural. Despite being a manmade product, Anston looked like natural stone. Ken investigated further still, visiting several homes where Anston pavers had been laid years earlier. Intriguingly, he found that the older pavers didn’t look faded or worn. Rather, age had enhanced the pavers, giving them a patina that added to their beauty. By now, Ken knew that Anston was the perfect solution for his own home. The only matter left to decide upon was the colour choice. Finally, after the whole family agreed, Anston paving in Devon and Newham colours were laid in the Connor garden, and are still being enjoyed to this day.
Over coffee not long after, Ken described the Anston operation to Bruce. It sounded like an unusual and old-fashioned setup, and reminded Bruce of stories of business from back in his grandfather’s time. Then, Ken really caught Bruce’s attention: the owner of Anston was looking to sell. Whilst still having plenty of room for improvement, the Anston business as it was maintained a steady flow of orders all year round. Ken and Bruce had both worked with concrete for twenty years, and knew they were the right people to take this product and business to the next level. Anston was worth a closer look.
At this early stage, Anston consisted of two employees, an open shed, a mixing barrel stationed on the back of a concrete truck, and a fork lift and front end loader which were held together by fencing wire. Lead times were twelve weeks plus, and there were some serious quality control issues, not to mention OH&S problems.
On the flip side, the Anston product looked great, and had enormous potential. Bruce and Ken rolled up their sleeves and started to work on their strategy. Twelve months of discussion and negotiation went by, and at last an agreement was reached. On 1 January 2001, Bruce and Ken became the proud owners of Anston Paving Stones.
The new owners immediately introduced some interim changes, which included employing qualified tradesmen, cleaning up the factory site and ensuring procedures for manufacturing and product curing time were met. Bruce and Ken worked hard to convince the existing disillusioned client base that these new regulations and implementations could turn the Anston situation around. They were also looking for new premises on which to set up operations. It was quite a stressful time in the company’s history.
It took about two years to find a new home for Anston, but at last in 2002 Anston was relocated to a factory in Kilsyth. The move gave Bruce and Ken the opportunity to introduce new mixing machinery, as well as a system for curing and surfacing products. Best of all, the complete operation of Anston Paving Stones was now within an indoor, controlled environment. The initial uphill battle was easing. Lead times had been dramatically reduced from twelve to four weeks. The sales and client base were increasing every year, and everyone felt renewed confidence in Anston’s product and service.
Around the same time, Anston received its first ever interstate order. The reputation of the brand was growing. The launch of the in-house engineering studio was also a significant milestone, enabling the factory staff to customise individual products for architects and designers.
The Kilsyth factory was a palace in comparison to the original premises. However, in 2007, Bruce and Ken faced up to the fact that they were now outgrowing the new factory. A search for another new home began.
In 2008, Anston was moved to its next home in Clayton, behind Monash University. Ensuring the transition was smooth with no interruption to supply, the new fit-out was brought to completion over a full year. Equipment and procedures were introduced to manage continued growth up to five times that of the capacity of the Kilsyth factory. And, for the first time, there was space to open an indoor showroom – an addition that was greatly appreciated by all.
2013 saw another move for Anston’s manufacturing. Although the Clayton operation was coping with production, it still wasn’t the ideal location for our retail customers. On top of this, our business was continuing to evolve, and having managed our capacity for growth, the timing was right to retro-fit our production operation to accommodate the growing demand from architects and designers for our bespoke products.
To satisfy both these areas of our business, we decided to separate the manufacturing and the showroom. Anston’s manufacturing operation is now located in a larger premises in Boronia with a purpose-built engineering department. This move is also great news for our retail customers. After plenty of market research, we have secured a showroom in Abbotsford (Melbourne), which will be the new home for our sales and marketing team. We can’t wait to get the showroom up and running to better showcase our Architectural range.
It has been a constantly evolving and exciting 15 plus-year journey for Bruce and Ken, who are now enjoying themselves more than ever. Anston is enormously proud to be manufacturers of both an Australian-made product and Australia’s first carbon neutral paver. While there are always challenges and room for improvement, they believe the investment they have made in their people and operation augers well for the future of Anston. We all look forward to the next 15 plus years!