Old, vintage, historical book archives at the Morwell Historical Society

Morwell on the March – Retail

A Journey in Time – A Resource for Local History

Morwell on the March – Retail

Coles Variety Stores

In March 1950 G. J. Coles and Company announced their intention of opening a store at No. 3 Tarwin Street. The company had secured the premises previously owned by Rogers and Brereton. Coles placed their first advertisement for Morwell staff in the Morwell Advertiser edition dated: Thursday ,May 25th 1950.The store was officially opened at 9am on Thursday 10th August 1950. The first manager was Mr. Norman Cornall.

In November G. J. Coles and Co. purchased an adjoining property, which had been owned by the long established (circa 1879) drapery firm of J., later to become A.A. Green. The purchase extended the frontage of the Coles store by approximately 40 feet. The extensions were opened with a promotional sale on August 16th 1951.

George Wardrop Limited

In August 1950 George Wardrop Limited, a well known Melbourne firm specialising in Men’s Wear retailing announced that they had purchased the clothing business and premises of E. T. Stammers and Co. of Commercial Road, the sale to take effect as from the 1st. October. The Morwell branch of George Wardrop Limited opened on 4th October 1950, with Mr. W. E. Ferguson as manager. Mr. Ferguson was one of the partners of E. T. Stammers and Company.

During January 1951 the interior of the Morwell store was extensively renovated and updated to match the standard of Wardrop’s Melbourne stores.

Myer Emporium Ltd

In 1952 Myer Emporium Ltd introduced to Morwell shoppers the novel idea of a direct ordering system by “Teleprinter”. Customers perused catalogues and selected their purchases. The orders were then transmitted directly to Melbourne and within a few days they were delivered free of charge to the customer’s address. The delivery service applied to residents of Morwell, Yallourn, Newborough, Morwell Bridge and Herne’s Oak.

The Myer Emporium Teleprinter service operated from 208 Commercial Road; it shared a portion of the premises of Clematis Art Florists. The teleprinter operator was Miss Laxton. The service began on Monday March 31st, 1952.

The service moved to new premises at 22 Commercial Road on Friday 5th December 1952.

Morwell Co-operative Store

The Morwell Co-op was established in May and began trading in July 1955. The first premises were located in a small shed at the S.E.C. works area in Wallace Street. The board of directors were : Jack Tulloch, Graham Jones, Jack Robert, Graham Benson, Les Kite, Harold Westgarth and Ron Farrington.

In its infancy the co-op relied very heavily on volunteer labour. The first employee was Mr. Harry Huguenin. In 1958 the directors of the Co-op decided to branch out into petrol retailing, they purchased a site from the Vary family in Buckley Street and began a small service station. Mr. Arthur Barrett was the first manager.

In October 1959 the co-op opened a new brick building at 27 Ann Street, on the corner of Hazelwood Road. The building, which cost 27,000 to construct, had a floor space of 6,500 square feet. The building contractor for the project was the Kerrie Street firm Allan Grieve Pty Ltd. Construction work began at the site in May. The co-op building was a major project and local contractors figured prominently in the construction phase.

  • The joinery work was carried out by Mr. J. Walsh (Ryan Street).
  • T. C. Miller (Kerrie Street) was responsible for the plumbing.
  • The Langford Street painting contractor D. H. McNeilly was in charge of the decorating.
  • The Moe firm Colmax installed the lighting system that had been designed by the SEC.
  • Mr. A. Chipman, Chairman of Directors of Morwell Co-op officiated at the opening day proceedings.
  • Mr. E. T. Ebbels, registrar of Co-operative societies and Co-operative housing societies, performed the official opening.
  • The new Morwell Co-operative store featured air-conditioning, restroom facilities for shoppers and landscaped surrounds. The new store generated employment for 9 people.

Woolworths Store

The Woolworths store at 202-204 Commercial Road opened for trading on Thursday, 25th August 1955. It was the first Woolworths store in Gippsland region. The building had a floor area of 1,300 square feet. The store’s colour scheme was cream, with blue and red. An interesting feature of the building was the terrazzo style flooring. The store’s counters were constructed from blondewood and were approximately 300 feet in total length.

  • On opening day, and for the first few days of operation 53 staff were employed. The regular staffing level was between 15 and 20.
  • The first store manager was Mr. R. V. Zuccala.

Gude’s Arcade

Gude’s shopping arcade was located directly opposite the railway station on the Princes Highway. The arcade carried right through to Buckley Street. Construction work began on the site in February 1955. The first phase of the project provided for the erection of eight shops, with a construction cost of 16,000. A total of twenty-seven shops would be available by the projects completion. Rest rooms and conveniences were provided for shoppers. Car parking was also available. The arcade was owned by Mr. Stan Gude, and was built by local contractor Mr. Wes Jones. Several other local firms were also involved with the project.

Mr. Gude placed an advertisement in the local newspaper on 8th September, inviting everyone to attend the opening day activities.

Stage one of Gude’s Arcade was officially opened at 2.45pm on Thursday 15th September 1955. Morwell Shire President Cr. Alan Hall performed the opening. At Cr. Hall’s invitation, Mrs. J. W. F. Connan cut the ribbon to the main entrance. Free afternoon tea was made available to the general public at the completion of the festivities.

The first businesses to operate from Gude’s Arcade were:

Jim Johnston – Florist, Glamorelle – Ladies Fashion, Gippsland Bon Marche – Delicatessen, Evans – Authorised Newsagency, Ronmau Beauty Salon, The Arcade Shoe Salon, Fay’s Jewellery (5th December 1955), Montagues Pharmacy (February 1956), National Bank (Receiving Centre only).

Church and Buckley Street Businesses

Latrobe Meat Supply and Delicatessen opened in Church Street in September 1953. Their advertising slogan was ” For Meat that’s a Treat”.

Watson-Cobb, electrical engineers and retailers opened on Monday 16th November 1953. Their Church Street premises had a frontage of 30 feet and featured plate-glass windows. The double storey brick building had a floor area of 3,000 square feet.

In late 1953 Latrobe Joinery Works – Morwell (Mr. K. Rice) constructed five shops on the western side of Church street, next door to “Latrobe Meat Supply”. The owner Mr. Eric Gude prepared the design specifications. Mr. Rice’s company took only 7 weeks and three days to complete the work. The five shops had a combined frontage onto Church Street of 108 feet, each shop had a uniform depth of 43 feet. An easement ran along the rear of the property. Cream coloured Traralgon bricks were used in the construction. All five shops had large plate-glass display windows.

  • By the second week in December the building was ready to receive its first tenants.
  • The following businesses opened for trading on Monday 21st December 1953 :
  • Faulkner’s Self-Serve Grocery (Morwell’s first) Unthank and Gude Shoe Store Morwell Fruit Supply Golden Fountain- Soda Bar and Grill Room “Lawree” Home-Made Cakes.
  • Davies Post Office Pharmacy opened at No. 8 Church Street on Monday 28th November 1955.
  • Sorman’s Menswear and Tailoring, situated opposite the Post Office commenced trading on 8th December 1955.
  • Turner’s Hardware, located in Buckley Street also opened for business on 8th December 1955.
  • K. W. Steele Furniture opened in Buckley Street on 11th May 1956. The store was situated between Collins Street and the Maya Theatre.

Purvis Stores Supermarket – Buckley Street

The Purvis Organisation opened a Supermarket in Buckley Street on Thursday May 29th 1958.In July 1957, the architects for the project: Smith, Tracey, Lyon and Brock announced that a tender for the construction of the supermarket had been accepted from Mr. R. J. Ireland, Gibson Street, Trafalgar.

  • The cost of the successful tender amounted to £26,006.
  • The building measured eighty-seven feet by one hundred and thirty-seven feet. Off street parking was provided for one hundred vehicles.
  • There was much activity on the day of the official opening, activity that included a helicopter landing in the car park!
  • The first manager of the Supermarket was Mr. Jack Francis. Other staff members at the time were: Bill O’Brien, Jim Johnson, Roy Woods, Ken and Bob Watts.

Payne’s Bon Marche Pty Ltd

Payne’s (a long-established Bourke Street Melbourne firm) opened a large emporium in Commercial Road in November 1959. The building, situated at the eastern end of Commercial Road at 230-232 (now occupied by Clint’s Warehouse at time of writing) was opened at 10am on Thursday November 19th. Morwell became the company’s 15th country branch outlet.

Mr. T. W. Keneley, a Payne’s Director, stated that ” Morwell is destined to become one of the greatest towns in Victoria industrially, and it is worthy of every modern facility to aid it and its people in this forward progress”.

The Honourable A. J. Fraser M.L.A., Minister for State Development, performed the official opening. It was a very special event for Morwell shoppers. A large crowd was in attendance and an air of festivity prevailed. Children were provided with free balloons and drinks.

The emporium was jointly occupied by Payne’s and the self-service grocery chain of Connell-Dickens (a subsidiary company of G. J. Coles).

The $130,000 facility was constructed by C. K. McInness of Dandenong (refer Latrobe Valley Hotel).

The architects were the East Melbourne firm: J. W. F. Ballantyne.

Three interesting features of the brick building were: the large plate-glass windows that fronted onto Commercial Road, the “gable-sawtooth” roof and the mezzanine floor which was suspended from the ceiling.

To ensure that the interior of the building received as much natural light as possible the architects allowed for 50 foot clear fibreglass panels to be fitted onto each side of the gables. The cost of this feature amounted to 1,400.

The emporium had approximately 34,000 square feet of floor space. Public toilets and a lounge for women shoppers were also available.

Payne’s provided almost everything that the Morwell shopper could possibly desire.

The emporium had numerous departments : Manchester, Chemist-Dispensary, Crockery/Cutlery, Electrical Goods, Furniture, Hardware/Paint, Jewellery, Men’s and Boy’s Wear, Footwear, Toys, Hairdressing Salons, Women’s Fashions and a Snack Bar for hungry customers.

Author’s note: Payne’s operated a small store in Rintoull Street before establishing a presence in Commercial Road. The Rintoull Street shop opened for trading on Monday 13th August 1956.