Friday, May 16, 2014

Allan & Stark, Brisbane

(Allan & Clark American Tableaux on Peace Celebration Day)

Fashionable people often shopped at Allan & Stark in Brisbane.  This large department store, originally a drapery, was founded by James Allan, a Scottish man , who came to Brisbane in 1879. After starting in a commercial venture in his native Glasgow as a packing boy, he rose to the top, and he established the firm in 1882 with Robert Stark, even though they had less than 500 pounds to invest in the store.

The Stanley Street store soon became extremely popular.  Large numbers of migrants, a ten million pound loan to the state and a real estate boom helped the business to thrive.  It ran on a credit-by-bills system, and extended credit was often given.  The shop did extensive trade with the settlers in the Albert, Logan and Coomera Valleys.

Unfortunately, banks and commercial enterprises took many risks in the 1880s, leading to a crash.  The terrible floods of 1893 worsened the situation.  The first floor of the store was flooded, and the business went through tough times.

They moved to Queen Street to a neo-classical building designed by Andrea Stambuco.  The firm now operated on a cash basis, and business practices were generally much sounder.  The company went from strength to strength.  Their magnificent showrooms, gorgeous fashion catalogues and fashion parades were extremely popular. The country people especially liked receiving the free catalogues, so that they could choose their orders for their seasonal wardrobes. Even in 1933, there was no sign of depression as far as Allan & Stark was concerned, and there were no empty shops nearby.

After the Second World War, people started using their cars to go shopping, and they weren't happy with the lack of parking in the city.  Allan & Stark learned that drive-in shopping centres were becoming popular in America, so they bought a large parcel of land at Chermside for a new shopping centre.  There was great opposition to the project, especially from competitors.  However, Allan & Stark went ahead  and built the first drive-in shopping centre in Australia in Brisbane with 700 car spaces.  To everyone's amazement, the centre was a huge success, and a few years later more car spaces had to be provided!

Myers soon bought out the famous Brisbane store.

There are several photos of the original Allan & Stark buildings, but I can't find any photos of the interiors of the early stores.  This is somewhat upsetting.  I hope that the John Oxley library may have some.

Here are some photos of early Brisbane department stores.

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