Brothers spirit and legacy lives on

1920 2560 In Good Company | Northern Rivers

J. Notaras & Sons

33 Heber St, South Grafton

Visit Clarence Valley Northern Rivers-01
Brothers spirit and legacy lives on


  1. Notaras & Sons owes its existence, strong identity and ongoing success to the dreams of two brothers of Greek ancestry. The story begins with Brinos and Spiro Notaras buying a sawmill in the village of Lawrence, near Maclean, in 1952 and starting a business that honoured their father Jack (hence the ‘J’ in the name). 

Fourteen years later in 1966, expansion precipitated a move to the Heber St, South Grafton site, where the business has operated ever since. That’s 70 years of trade – this is a business etched into the Northern Rivers business landscape. 

“The brothers were visionary, and ahead of their time in the timber industry,” says Donna Layton, the general manager of J. Notaras & Sons, who has been close to the family for decades. “They were always looking for better ways of doing things, and travelled overseas to gain knowledge and new technology in sawmilling techniques.

“They were real characters and because of their dedication and experience, were treated with respect, and other businesses followed on what they did. And their arguments were well known and heard, that was how they worked things out.”

  1. Notaras & Sons today defines itself as a sawmill and planing mill, sourcing wood from sustainably managed forests to craft into products including flooring options such as tongue and groove and parquetry (block parquetry being particularly in-demand lately); structural timber such as beams; and non-kiln-dried Australian hardwood that can be cut to order. 

That commitment to sustainability is among the business’s key priorities.

“All our manufacturing gives a product, including residue material,” says Donna. “From the sawlog, all sawdust is sold. Other residue material is chipped and sold mainly for use in feedlots, which is then recycled into compost.

“We don’t waste any material, timber is a truly renewable resource and stores carbon not only in a log, but in all products manufactured from the log.”

The business employs 35 people, with plans to recruit more. Donna proudly states that she and two foremen have worked in the timber industry for 45 years. An impressive 35 per cent of employees have been with the company for more than 20 years. At the other end of the spectrum, Donna and her team welcomed their first young apprentice in early 2022. 

Along with the wider timber industry in the Northern Rivers and beyond, J. Notaras & Sons suffered setbacks due to the floods of 2022 and the Black Summer bushfires of 2019 and 2020. The excessive wet weather, Donna says, has severely affected wood supply, with the business 30 per cent down on its usual resources – a problem that continues. The fires made things even worse. At that time log intake was 50 to 60 per cent below the usual intake, resulting in the business having to limit staff to a four-day week to avoid redundancies. This situation continued through Covid-19, with the workforce now, finally, back steady at five days a week. 

“Keeping our staff gainfully employed and working a full week has been one of our biggest achievements recently,” says Donna. 

Donna is also devoted to keeping alive the spirit of innovation and ingenuity, as defined by the Notaras brothers. Sadly, Brinos passed away in 2005, and Spiro in 2016, yet the Notaras family still owns the business – Spiro’s sons John and Spiro, and Marina Fahey, Brinos’s daughter, are non-working directors. 

  1. Notaras & Sons also engages with the local community around Grafton in numerous ways. For example, the company actively supports the Grafton Men’s Shed. They also donate wood for woodworking classes at local schools, and are involved with Rotary, Grafton Show Society and Grafton Chamber of Commerce. All these are activities that feed into the wider purpose of the business: to foster connections, networks and community spirit in this centre of enterprise in the Clarence Valley. 

“The small customer base we supply are also family companies,” says Donna. “We seem to attract each other and it’s a pleasure working with them, and we don’t want to let them down as they have also supported us through the hard times and good times.

“Country people are more resilient than most and whether it be timber, crops, or meat, we all get on with the job.”

“Keeping our staff gainfully employed and working a full week has been one of our biggest achievements recently”

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