Birchip’s main thoroughfare is transforming thanks to a combination of public projects and private enterprise. While a long-awaited Cumming Avenue Streetscape Improvement Project is expected to commence shortly, local business owner Tom McLoughlan Jnr has undertaken a private business revitalisation project of his own by revamping the well-known Smale’s Farm Equipment into YBS Ag Supplies.
In what will be a one-stop-shop for local farmers and contractors, the newly appointed retail space is stocked with agricultural products ranging from belts, chains and filters to chainsaws and heavy-duty tools. The adjacent yard has been renovated to showcase equipment including augers, feed bins and mowers that are ready to go.
“Birchip is a proud farming and contracting town” explained Tom, when asked why he took on the opportunity. “Geographically, we have our challenges, and that causes extra expenses. Our local farmers and contractors need to access these products quickly. I personally know the considerable expense of sending an employee on a round-trip to get parts. It’s not just the cost of the part, it’s wages for a worker, fuel costs and time lost to travel.”
“We want to give farmers and contractors the confidence that they will be looked after when they buy from us. We’re developing relationships with the relevant stockists, so the farmer doesn’t need to. They just have to know they can call us, and we’ll sort it out for them” he said. “We’re working to fill the shop with stock so that 90 per cent of the time, we have the right belt or filter so that the tractor, or the header doesn’t have to stop. We have a range of augers in the yard and we can order in stock if something is needed before harvest.”
The team at YBS are also excited to offer something new by setting up a programmed maintenance team to regularly service the equipment they sell. Tom explained that the service will schedule maintenance schedule to ensure it is reliable when it’s needed the most.
“We aim to put together a program that minimises avoidable breakdowns during peak operating periods” Mr McLoughlan said “in the past, the farming operations in the area had larger workforces – nowadays with the advances in machinery there are less people covering more acres with less time and man-power to ensure their equipment is maintained. We hope to be able to provide that service and support.”
Smale’s Farm Equipment, the previous business operating on the site, was due to close their doors on 1 May 2020 after 43 years in business. “Jeff [Smale] gave a call about 10 days prior to closing-up and when push came to shove, I thought we should give it a go. We know that locals support locals around here and this business will be a part of that.”
Although it isn’t the first local business to be owned by the McLoughlan’s, the family also operate TMC enviro an Environmental Contracting business in Birchip, it is their first foray into a retail operation.
Prior to Smale’s proprietary the business was named “Young’s Blue Store” which traded as a general merchant store so the name ‘YBS Ag Supplies’ is a tribute to history of the building.
YBS Ag have shown they are ready to give back to the farming community through sponsorship of local not-for-profit agricultural research group BCG. Their gold sponsorship package includes in-kind support for the extension team at BCG offering the services of their team to assist in site maintenance and set-up for BCG Field Days, as well as the donation of products to be raffled at BCG events.
“It’s great to have the support of local businesses” said BCG CEO Fiona Best “BCG relies on the ongoing support of farmers and sponsors to undertake relevant local agricultural research to ensure our region has the best information available to keep their operations profitable.”