When Peter Cox launched Betta Home Living Seymour in June 2003, things were pretty different in the town.
Robin Steers was mayor of Mitchell Shire and Ben Hardman was member for the now-defunct Victorian seat of Seymour.
Down the road, the Mangalore Pub was gutted by a fire after 68 years, while Jeff Anderson, 20, was selected in the Rodney Eade-coached Victorian Country Football League squad.
And Seymour’s A-grade netball side was flying high under the command of Josie Gunn.
Mr Cox first moved from Geelong into the area in the early 1990s after his life was torpedoed by the sudden collapse of his employer, the Pyramid Building Society.
This left him virtually penniless and without a job overnight.
A friend of his father offered him a job in Puckapunyal and, after a year of commuting on a weekly basis as his family stayed in Geelong, the Cox family eventually sold and moved
A framed picture of Gary Ablett’s iconic mark over Collingwood’s Gary Pert in his office a nod to the coastal city in which he grew up.
He originally rented the shop space on Station St where Total Sports was until Retravision packed up, giving him the chance to move into the Anzac Ave space in September 2004.
And reflecting on his 15-year milestone running the business, Mr Cox said despite a couple of hiccups, including a ram-raid, a handful of floods and a company-wide liquidation crisis, he had loved his time in Seymour and the chance to entrench himself in the community.
‘‘This town has been pretty marvellous as far as supporting what we do here ... you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,’’ he said.
‘‘You definitely get out what you put into it.’’
For Mr Cox, nothing symbolised the warmth of the community more than the support shown to his family when his wife, who has since passed away, fell sick.
‘‘People came from everywhere. I’d go home at night and find a meal in the fridge,’’ he said.
‘‘A bloke rang one night and checked I hadn’t turned the burglar alarm on in the house, because he was putting something into the fridge for me.
‘‘Things like that just happen because you’re here and people respect what you do ... and if you do likewise and look after other people; well that’s what it’s all about.’’
Looking to the future, Mr Cox said he has his work cut out competing against the bigger fish such as Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi and The Good Guys.
But a quick look around the signs hanging on the outskirts of Kings Park and the football fields in Avenel and Nagambie would give anyone a decent incentive to shop locally.
‘‘It’s a tough gig at the moment. There’s a lot of price competition from the big blokes and people can just jump in the car and drive an hour to get to Shepparton or Melbourne for shopping,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m lucky because my nearest competitor is at Alexandra, then Mansfield, Epping, Shepparton and then Melbourne — so I’ve got a roughly 90km exclusion zone.
‘‘But you’ve still got to service the area and look after it properly, which we try to do.’’
Betta Home Living Seymour is at 74A Anzac Ave, Seymour.