Much like the man himself, Garth Llewellyn’s office is a throwback. Mismatched chairs and stacks of manilla folders dot the small besser block room as a box fan hums away on the desk. There’s no computer to be seen, but plenty of paperweights. The Brisbane Street base is a humble home away from home for this Ipswich real estate icon.
“I’ve always been a big believer in goodwill,” Mr Llewellyn, 84, said.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to help people get into their homes. You drive down the street, see the windows open, the curtains blowing in the breeze and kids running around the yard and you know you had something to do with that.
“It’s very special.”
The owner and founder of First National Commercial Ipswich, Mr Llewellyn’s first job was working alongside cousin Tom Edwards as an electrician at RT Edwards.
He joined the real estate industry in 1959 with Jackson & Meyers. At the time he was selling houses by day and driving his cab at night.
“You had to be an owner-driver back then but the cab laws changed in 1964,” Mr Llewellyn said.
“So in 1964 I put some drivers in the cab – one of my first drivers, Barry Jones, is a great mate until this day and I still see a lot of him.
“I wanted to do something different for a real estate business name and in those days the word ‘realty’ wasn’t used in Australia.
“I went with ‘realty’ and then got thinking about ‘action’ being an active word that started with ‘a’.
“I thought if people were looking at a listing in a phonebook they’d see Action Realty first because of that ‘a’.”
Not content with simply selling houses, Mr Llewellyn’s new venture also built them.
Action Realty was responsible for a number of commercial properties including the Redbank Plains Tavern, the Zupps showroom at Mt Gravatt and the café overlooking Wivenhoe Dam.
GALLERY: The Ipswich CBD in 1959.
“One year in our heyday we built 104 houses,” Mr Llewellyn said of Action’s building success.
“That’s chickenfeed in today’s industry but back then we had to do everything on site, you didn’t have readymade concrete, frames and trusses.
“We offered a Family Trend house design that was fairly basic but the roof could be lifted off, a room converted to a staircase and another storey added to the home to accommodate a family that needed more space but didn’t want to move.”
Mr Llewellyn comes from solid stock. Like many of Ipswich’s founding families his granddad, Thomas Benjamin, was a Welsh miner who settled in Blackstone.
His parents Goff and Edna ran the Milbong Store between Ipswich and Boonah for 14 years and it was during this time that important life lessons were learned.
“I spoke about goodwill and to me that started with mum and dad and what they did with the shop,” the brother of Ipswich motoring magnate Ross Llewellyn said.
“They used to try and close of a Sunday afternoon because that was the only time we could all get together, but you could bet every second Sunday someone would ride their horse in from miles away to get what they needed.
“Sure enough mum and dad would always open the shop – if they didn’t the family would go hungry – and they’d tell the person on the horse to come around the side entrance and show them their list.
“That always stuck with me, that sense of goodwill, and I still see that in the Ipswich community.”
Mr Llewellyn sold Action Realty Ipswich in 2016 but remains committed to the commercial side of the business.
His wife Margaret runs Action Realty Collingwood Park.
Between them they have more than 90 years’ experience selling real estate in Ipswich.
“The Ipswich market is very buoyant at the moment, there’s a lot of value, particularly compared to Brisbane,” Mr Llewellyn said.
“My heart has always been in Ipswich and I always say to people ‘why wouldn’t you want to live here surrounded by people who genuinely care about their city?’.
“I don’t want to say it’s a country town, but there’s no town quite like Ipswich. It’s got its own charm.”
A bit like that office back in Brisbane Street.
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