By Kirra Grimes
ONE of Korumburra’s longest established businesses, Vassil Electronics, is closing its doors for the final time this month, with owner Paul Vassil ready to move on after 52 years on Commercial Street.
Paul’s worked out of several shopfronts in Korumburra, as well as one in Wonthaggi, over the years, selling and repairing electronics from the days of the first black and white televisions, to today’s slimline models that, he says, people are more likely to “throw out and buy a new one” than get fixed.
Born and raised in Korumburra, with a keen interest in tinkering with radios and record players from a young age, Paul studied at RMIT to become a radio and TV technician in the 1960s before getting a job with Malvern Star Stores.
It wasn’t long before the opportunity arose to open his own business, and he hasn’t looked back since, saying the freedom that comes with being self-employed and “not having to answer to a boss” has been a highlight of his long career.
But it’s also meant he hasn’t had a day off sick or a holiday for as long as he can remember, and, approaching his 70th birthday, he’s keen to “take life a bit easier,” watch his grandkids play sport, and get onto those jobs around the house he’s never had the chance to finish.
When we caught up with Paul in the middle of his closing down sale last week, he was proud to have survived as a small business owner for so long, and to have kept up with the everchanging nature of the electronics market.
“The advent of the internet and online shopping has changed the world, there’s no doubt. But people still look to us to do the odd repair,” he said.
“My main forte now is repairing electric fence energisers for the farming community, which I’ll keep doing from home when the shop closes, as well as TV antenna installations. I still enjoy it and I still need something to keep me busy!”
As one of the longest surviving businesses in the main street, Paul said a lot of Korumburra locals were sad to see the shop go, as it had always been “a place people could pick up what they need”.
With few ‘original’ businesses remaining, he observed the face of Korumburra was “certainly,” changing, to become “more of a tourist town,” but with new housing developments also springing up, it was “hard to know what the future holds” for the retail landscape.
But no matter what type of business you’re running, Paul says the key to success is pretty simple : “treat people as you want to be treated yourself”.
“The best lesson I’ve learned is to be courteous,” he said.
“My grandfather used to run a fish and chip shop and he always said a smile costs you nothing but gains you a lot.
“And I suppose the other thing to say is, if you don’t have a go, you’ll never know.
“Conditions are a lot more favourable now than they have been while I’ve been in business- and If you can’t make a go of something with these low interest rates, you’ll never do it.
“Maybe banks are a bit harder to deal with now but they’ve still got plenty of money to lend!”