And just like that, after more than 30 years of supplying high-quality blinds, drapery and bed heads, The Roman Empire is shutting up shop on Wednesday, October 16. Managing director Don Hailes grew the business into what it is today, with 30 staff who have become like a family.
As a teenager, Don owed his father money for rent. At the time he was a frustrated musician getting nowhere fast — just fast into debt. His father was in the retail blind business and offered Don the opportunity to assist him fitting blinds to pay him back. It was a task Don enjoyed, and from that day he’s never strayed from the industry. It was during his time working for his father that he was picking up some parts from a blind manufacturer one day and was offered a job. “I didn’t know when I said yes back then that it would have turned into all of this,” said Don.
When asked to name the most rewarding moment of his career, Don said he couldn’t have answered that until a month ago. As a predominately wholesale business distributing all over the country to large companies such as Spotlight, the news spread fast about Don’s plans to close. His phones ran hot as he was inundated with lovely calls to say thank you for his quality customer service and products, along with “we’ll miss you” emails. And what followed was more calls to offer his staff jobs. With some of them having been with Don for 25 years, he was overwhelmed with joy that everyone who was after a new job had in fact received a job offer without even applying. The calls literally didn’t stop. It was testament to the business he’d developed, the staff he’d coached and the industry standards they’d established.
“You see your work colleagues more than you see your own family. We are a family. It was difficult to announce the news and see their faces. But when we heard that everyone had been offered new positions, it affirmed to me that we’d been doing something right.”
Don feels like a free man, yet he’s recently forgone his retirement plan for a larger role in his blind component business which isn’t nearly as demanding and can be completed “when I feel like it”. Hmmm, we’ll see — he just can’t get enough.
Mornington Peninsula Magazine wishes Don and his staff an enjoyable farewell celebration and all the best moving forward.