Dahlsens: celebrating 140 years

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When you meet a Dahlsen, you’ll pretty quickly discover that they love a good yarn, as long as it’s not about themselves. But truth be known, the Dahlsens story is a pretty incredible one, reflected in the continued strong support for the company, from customers and employees alike, now 140 years on from their Australian beginnings.

Our foundations

Back in 1877, then building contractor John Christian Dahlsen used windfall returns from a gold find to build a new home. Finding he had surplus timber, he opened the Carron Timber Yards in Bairnsdale, Gippsland, Victoria.

As the years progressed, J C Dahlsen’s belief in the East Gippsland region’s future was strong and he was unshakeable in driving business pursuits including timber merchandising, saw milling, a half a century of shipping, motor car retailing, tourism, hospitality, fishing, contract home-building and a two-acre sized department store in Bairnsdale.

These endeavours were built on entrepreneurship, as well as goodwill for the local community they engaged. The reputation of Dahlsens was widely respected and without doubt helped to shape the region’s economic development and prosperity.

Business growth

With 100 years of experience under its belt, Dahlsens began its expansion into other regional communities in 1974, opening its first store outside of Bairnsdale, in Sale. As the years went on, Dahlsens strategically acquired businesses they could add value to, learning from the businesses before them and building their network across the state and into southern New South Wales. While some stores were sold along the way, most remain:

1980 Wagga
1984 Kerang & Swan Hill
1985 Deniliquin
1986 Lakes Entrance
1989 Echuca, Mildura
1994 Ballarat
1994 Lakes Entrance Trade
2001 Traralgon, Bairnsdale Truss & Frame, Bairnsdale re-developed at Dalmahoy Street
2002 Traralgon Truss & Frame
2007 Cranbourne
2008 Myrtleford
2009 Laverton, Kilsyth
2011 Craigieburn Truss & Frame
2015 Pakenham
2016 Warragul & Sale (re-opened)


The acquisition of subsidiaries Cairns Hardware in 2006, Nortruss in 2008 and Midcoast in 2014 has enabled Dahlsens to learn from other business models and markets as well as gain buying power across the group.

Dahlsens today

Over the past 140 years, it has taken more than luck to ensure that Dahlsens has remained family owned and operated across its multiple locations. At the core of its success is the family’s commitment to care for its employees and customers, to nurture relationships with the communities within which it exists, to foster an honest, hard working culture and to ensure financial stability.

There has been a Dahlsen family member employed by the family business, leading the charge since the company’s inception. With the Dahlsen name on the door, doing business with honesty, compassion and respect has been actively encouraged. It’s not all about sales either. Doing business while sharing a laugh with long-standing customers has been a common theme.

Each new generation of the Dahlsen family have honoured those before them, to maintain the values that have shaped the business, while evolving the company to continually add value to today’s builders.

Over time, there have been an estimated 8,000 employees at Dahlsens. Many of these employees have borne the Dahlsen name, and many more wear the Dahlsen name on their uniform with equal pride.

It’s not uncommon for employees to be one of many generations in their own families to have worked for Dahlsens over the years. Many employees have followed in the footsteps of a father or brother; starting out saving for their first car by working stock take in the school holidays, re-joining when they finished school, moving up the ranks, coming and going as they raised their own families, andthe cycle starts again.