John Parrello. One of Geelong’s favourite cabinetmakers heads into retirement.

ICM Geelong says goodbye to a well-respected cabinetmaker as John Parrello sells his business, Torquay Joinery, and transitions to retirement.  

From the age of four, John wanted to be a carpenter just like his Opa.  

Starting work at the age of 16, he did an apprenticeship at the Gordon TAFE. But things were a bit different back then. Cabinetmaking was very labour intensive, and everything was done by hand – cordless drills did not exist!

“I started my apprenticeship for B&G Young in 1976. This is where I met a tradesman, Graeme Wise and 4th year apprentice, Kevin Ryan – more about these two guys later. I finished my apprenticeship and stayed on for a further two years,” reflects John.

“I then worked with Corio Joinery for Fred Kadenbach for 18 months. Went on to Kitchen Comfort and met up with Greame Wise who was the Foreman there. I learned a lot from Graeme again and stayed there for 18 months, leaving just after a fire ripped through the factory and burned it down to the ground – such a sad day. I next went to Windsor Kitchens and worked for Mike Adams for 18 months.”

With drive and ambition, at the age of 25, John owned his own business – Marshall Kitchens – which he sold in 1995.

“I now start up my own business, Marshall Kitchens, in a small factory in North Shore. Why North Shore? The rent was cheap and we always intended to move to the  Marshall / Grovedale area. I did achieve this and the business is still there, operating under owner Kevin Ryan who I sold to in 1995.”

“At this point my wife, Ildy gave me a leave pass to ‘clear my mind’ after running a business for so long – we have a strong relationship. I got my back pack and travelled around Europe for three months.”

Working at property construction firm, Schiavello, John expanded his kitchen manufacturing skills by working on the Crown Casino construction site.  

“Next onto Schiavello working as an onsite shopfitter at Crown Casino, where I stayed until its opening. I gained a lot of knowledge working in different areas of its company, shopfitter, workstation installer, commercial carpenter. I worked on big projects – notably 35 Collins Street, 6th floor fitout Rialto Towers as a foreman running the whole project.”

“Those days were hard yakka.  Commuting from Newcomb to Melbourne, the 15-hour days were a challenge.   However, it set us up financially and we were excited to eventually purchase our block of land in Torquay.” 

“In February 2001, I contacted Graeme Wise seeking employment, yep all good. I stayed with Graeme, who until this day remains my mentor, for six months. Gaining new knowledge in the cabinetmaking industry, Graeme gave me the inspiration to start up a new venture again.  So, in November of 2001 a builder lured me over to Torquay for a new beginning.”

Torquay Joinery was established and so began the journey.

After 20 years, John is calling it quits. Joinery Manager, Patrick Cadd will remain at the front of the business and current employees are staying on.  Torquay Joinery remains an ICM Geelong member and whilst it will be business as usual for the joinery, you won’t find John there. He’ll be out riding his bike.

What will John miss most about Torquay Joinery?

The young crew. The baby boomers who all have young families of their own.  A boss and mentor to the team, he has nurtured them and seen them grow into talented cabinetmakers.

Winning the ICM Geelong polytec ‘Kitchen of the Year’ Award is one of John’s fondest memories. Winning the Award was proof that his young enthusiastic team were capable. He’d achieved his goal and could step back and start thinking about retirement.

“It was an emotional night; I was so proud to win the Award. To see what I had created with these guys, nurtured, them, taught them, what they had achieved.  So talented. Such a good feeling. The Award was for them.”

Fondly servicing the Torquay, Jan Juc and Surf Coast areas, Torquay Joinery’s customer service has been outstanding over the years.

“Working on the coast, we are always lucky to have incredible views on our smokos. Some of the homes we have worked on in this area have been outstanding and the people fantastic to work with.”

John’s also made an impact on his business colleges and the cabinetmaking industry in Geelong. Always generous with his time and sharing knowledge, especially with young cabinetmakers, quick with a joke and making friends easily.

“Treat your employees, suppliers and those around you with respect – especially your employees – they are your investment.”

Tips for starting out in Business.

John has a few tips for cabinetmakers looking to start their own business:

“I managed to play over 300 games of football in the GDFL. I’ve done the Kokoda track, and race bikes with GSCC. What I’m saying is, spread your time between your business, your hobbies and most importantly, your family.”

“Don’t be afraid to get out there and network. This has been a key point in my success.”

“A Business Coach, (even if only for short term), is a worthy investment.  Take a business management course and get your systems in place.”

But, most of all John recommends having a solid succession plan in place – it’s never too early to start your plan. Can your business run without you?  How will you eventually step away? Will you have an asset to sell at the end?”

And what will John do in retirement?

Not one to sit still for five minutes, who knows where John will pop up.  In the immediate future, he plans on spending time with his family. Some well-deserved R&R in Lennox Heads, NSW during our winter months is also on the agenda.

But John likes an adventure. Riding his bike from Torquay to Brisbane is one of his goals. However, the ultimate adventure would be to continue on to Cape York.  “This would mean 6-8 months on the bike and we are yet to discuss this prospect at home,” laughs John.

Congratulations Johnny and thank you for your contributions to the cabinetmaking industry.



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