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.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

An Innovative Brisbane Department Store: Allan and Stark

Imagine that you are a young fashion-conscious lady in Edwardian Brisbane with some money.  You want to purchase some new clothes and hats.  Surprisingly, there is a wide choice of large stores, including Allan and Stark, Finneys of the Isles and Bayards.  Trading hours are also long - most shops stay open quite late.There is even Sunday trading in the suburbs.

You look through the new fashion catalogue from Allan and Stark, and see delightful illustrations of models from the great design centres of Europe.  There are pretty blouses, lace goods, silk underskirts and several different types of hats.

It is a good idea to go to the showroom before buying anything, and you are especially anxious to see the hats.  The millinery showroom is magnificent.  Decorated with cool green carpets and curtains, the room features long mirrors surrounded by masses of foliage, emerald velvet stands and Japanese baskets filled with  colourful flowers, including forget-me-nots, poppies and cornflowers.  There is also a famous 'crimson' table with roses, poppies and crimson hats.

You love the new hats. You can choose between the Gainsborough, the Leghorn and the Bow hat.  The bow hat in the showroom is made of black crinoline with a cluster of roses and large black bows. Another one is made of blue crinoline and has blue roses and bows with a Japanese buckle.

After looking at the dresses, you decide to buy a blue dress with leg-of-mutton sleeves and a rich applique trimming to match your new Bow hat.

Next time, I will write about the history of this wonderful store.  If only I could go time-travelling and see these beautiful fashions!