John Christian Dahlsen, founder, arrived in Australia. He landed in the vicinity of Sale in East Gippsland before heading for North Gippsland in search of gold. The precious metal drove J C Dahlsen all his life. For over forty years, J C Dahlsen stayed involved in the gold mining industry of Gippsland.
It is said that a lucky gold find in that year led to the beginnings of the hardware business. J C Dahlsen took delivery of a large consignment of timber in early September 1877 and, at the same time, advertised his intention of commencing a timber yard business.
As a storekeeper in the late 1870s, J C Dahlsen foresaw the advantages of shipping as a means of transport, especially between Bairnsdale and the fast growing town of Lakes Entrance. The flagship of the Dahlsen fleet was the JCD, named after its owner John Christian Dahlsen. Another member of the fleet was the SS Gippsland.
In 1924, Dahlsens once more ventured boldly, engaging in contract building in Bairnsdale and throughout East Gippsland. In the inter-war years, the company constructed, altered and extended numerous houses. At the time, this seemed to be smart business as Dahlsens were a reputable firm with proven contractors. The demand for housing had soared following the return of soldiers to civilian life too.
This was an eventful year for Dahlsens. It extended and modernised the Nicholson Street store. The main purpose of the project was to provide a new fashion and menswear department. It featured sound absorbing ceiling panels and floor tiling. The renovated store opened in September 1954.
Dahlsens positioned its business for momentous change, selling a large part of its other businesses to focus on the original core business of timber and hardware. In 1974, Dahlsens bought its site in Macarthur Street in Sale. In 1979, Dahlsens relocated its Bairnsdale outlets to a three acre site in Dalmahoy Street.
In 1992, the main office of Dahlsens moved from Bairnsdale to Springvale in Melbourne. John Dahlsen, the elder son of Keith Dahlsen, became more involved in the family business. A career lawyer, a former chairman of Woolworths, ANZ and Southern Cross Broadcasting and a sitting director of the Melbourne Business School, John launched Dahlsens into its next growth phase. New stores were acquired. By then, Dahlsens had three stores operating in the metro market.
Dahlsens sells its Melbourne metro stores to another family owned chain of hardware stores.
Dahlsens were now in 13 cities and towns in regional Victoria. Over that period of rapid expansion, the general managers were Derek Dahlsen followed by Bill Dahlsen, who in 1997, was appointed Managing Director.
In April 2005, Geoff Dahlsen, the son of John Dahlsen, was appointed CEO. Geoff is a trained lawyer and joined the family business in 1991.
In 2006, Cairns Hardware Company, a chain of hardware stores in north Queensland located from Cooktown to Innisfail, was added to J C Dahlsen Pty Ltd.
Through its acquisition of three Hudsons stores, Dahlsens returned to metropolitan Melbourne. The sites in Box Hill, Croydon and Cranbourne joined the group in June 2007. The Cranbourne store is still operational. Croydon was relocated to a new facility in Kilsyth, which later moved to the current site in Bayswater. Unfortunately Box Hill was closed down in late 2011 due to a return to its landlord. Dahlsens opened a store in Laverton in 2007.
Dahlsens acquires Nortruss Building Supplies, with branches in Darwin, Nhulunbuy and Broome. Dahlsens acquires Town & Country in Mossman and Cooktown, and Myrtleford Mitre10.
In May 2011, a joint venture arrangement acquired Midcoast Timber Centres, a network of stores in metropolitan Sydney and the Central Coast and with a particular focus on the renovation market.
Amidst a rapidly changing competitive landscape in the hardware retail market and a couple of years of fast contraction in housing activity in Victoria, Dahlsens reassessed its offering. The decision was made to refocus the Victorian business to be for the trade, which has remained the company’s core business since its early days in 1877. Stores with a strong retail offer were bannered Mitre 10 and the remaining stores were re-laid and re-ranged to focus on the builder market.
In 2014, J C Dahlsen Pty Ltd (parent company of Dahlsens Building Centres P/L) acquired the remaining interest in Midcoast Timber Centres to give Dahlsens full ownership. The Dahlsen group sees opportunity in buying businesses which share similar family oriented and customer first values. Each subsidiary within the Dahlsen group is managed in its own right, each with challenges both unique and similar in their respective local markets. The ideas and learnings exchanged within the group further concretes the strong market leading position it holds as experts in the distribution of building materials to the industry.
In October 2015, Dahlsens opened its Pakenham branch, the first new branch to open since the re-structure in 2013. Two new stores then followed in the Gippsland towns of Sale and Warragul in February 2016. Griffith H Hardware in Griffith was acquired in January 2018.
Dahlsens navigated impacts to the building industry of the global COVID-19 pandemic, managing timber shortages in order to meet the needs of customers. Management’s focus was keeping customers informed and maintaining jobs (and morale) for team members.
DIY Timbers in Nowra and Karinie Building Supplies in Swan Hill become part of the Dahlsens family.
Dahlsens moves into the Canberra market to broaden its network by acquiring Mitchell Building Supplies, Fyshwick Builders Suppliers and Trussme truss and frame manufacturing plant.