Tag Archives: dead brand names

Norman Ross Discounts/Harvey Norman/Jacobs Furniture – Arncliffe, NSW

Gerry Harvey and his Harvey Norman retail empire may still be prominent and sometimes newsworthy today, but spare a thought for Norman Ross. In 1961 Harvey and his business partner Ian Norman opened their first electrical store here at Arncliffe, calling it Harvey Norman Discounts. After its success, the two decided to start a chain but couldn’t agree on a name, so they picked the name of the store’s manager, and in 1962 the first Norman Ross store opened. In 1965, this Arncliffe store’s name was changed to Norman Ross. This site saw its share of controversy in 1978, when the ever-provocative Harvey broke the hymen of Australian retail innocence and defied a NSW Government ban on after hours trading. The store remained open long after the midday closing time required by law. Shoppers poured in to the five-level store, drawn like moths to the flame of novelty and controversy, as if they couldn’t have bought that toaster a few hours earlier. Harvey risked jail time and heavy fines with the move, but it seemed to pay off.

Norman Ross was doing pretty well by 1982, when both the Coles Group and Alan Bond, the man who was allergic to money, decided they wanted a piece of the action. Coles won out after a fierce bidding war, but Bond bought the chain from Coles just three weeks later. Both Harvey and Norman were instantly sacked, but then immediately started the Harvey Norman discount chain, which flourished while Norman Ross struggled in its Bondage. Bond being Bond, the writing was on the wall for Norman Ross as soon as he took over, and it went into liquidation in 1992. In what could be seen as a patronising move, Harvey has resurrected the Norman Ross name for his stores in New Zealand. Let’s take a moment to process that – he didn’t want to attach his own name to anything over there, and would rather use the soiled, besmirched name of a failed Australian retail operation from two decades ago to sell fridges and Dells. You’d think Bond was still in charge.

But while Gerry Harvey whines to anyone who’ll listen about the unfairness of online trading, the store that he built his empire on still sits on the Princes Highway, and it’s here that for Norman Ross, the writing is still on the wall. After the chain was wound up, the store became a Hardly Normal outlet for a time, but for the last few years it’s housed a variety of fly-by-night furniture retailers. I don’t mean to cast aspersions on Jacobs Furniture, but I don’t think even Alan Bond’ll be taking out his chequebook for this one anytime soon. Even at 50% off.

Flemings Fabulous Food Store/Woolworths Supermarket – Bexley North, NSW

If you visit the suburb of Bexley North, you’ll find a supermarket with an identity crisis. Flemings, or in this case, Flemings Fabulous Food Store, opened as a chain of supermarkets in 1930, but in 1960 sold up to Woolworths. This particular Flemings is one of only two left in New South Wales, the other being in Jannali. Inside, it’s all Woolworths branded, but the name and the building itself (and some of the items on the shelves) are all vintage Flemings.

Why Woolies is prolonging the death of this particular Flemings should become obvious when you look to the right of the picture. When the new block of units (built on a former petrol station) opens, they’ll want a bigger supermarket, and if Woolworths can buy up the other tiny shops on this strip, expect a big budget overhaul that’ll relegate Flemings to Supermarket Heaven alongside Clancy’s and Jewel. Nothing like a bit of competition.

Movietek/Blockbuster Video/For Lease – Surry Hills, NSW

Yet another dead video shop, this ex-Blockbuster has the distinction of having taken over the location from another video shop before running it into the ground. Are Blockbuster stickers and signs really hard to get off or something? Did they foolishly build them to last?

Ah, neon. This is the first and only instance of a Movietek outlet I’ve come across, so it must have been one of the independents back in the golden era of video shops. Also of interest at this location is the second floor, which until around 2007 was a costume shop (imaginatively named The Costume Shop). Pardon the pun, but it’s fitting, given that Movietek put on a Blockbuster costume to try and swim in the deep end.

The Hartee’s Saga, Part III – Punchbowl, NSW

Continued from Part II

1974 saw further expansion by Hartee’s that almost bordered on arrogance. The original Earlwood store was deemed too small to fit into Hartee’s plan for national dominance, and was closed. The new head office at Mascot suddenly wasn’t good enough either, and a new head office was established at Botany. New outlets were still being opened in the suburbs, like this one at Punchbowl in 1975:

Until recently a Bank of Queensland branch, this location has changed hands more than a few times since Hartee’s left. This was the final Hartee’s store to open, and strangely, it isn’t a drive-thru like all other new stores had been. Maybe Hartee’s knew something we didn’t? Press reports at the time had suggested that Hartee’s had incurred an operating loss of $918,000 AUD in 1973, and were continuing to lose money as time went on. Perhaps they were starting to employ cost cutting measures…

ON TO PART IV

The Hartee’s Saga, Part II – Canterbury, NSW

Continued from Part I

In 1971, McDonald’s opened their first Australian restaurant at Yagoona in Sydney’s southwest. Hartee’s, as Sydney’s resident hamburger chain, returned fire by opening no less than four locations in 1972, eclipsing McDonald’s store count. Of those four, Liverpool, Canterbury, Manly Vale and Kogarah, only the Canterbury store still exists in any form:

The building still features the drive-thru lane and original roof, but apart from that nothing remains of Hartee’s. Seeing as McDonald’s didn’t open a drive-thru location until 1978, at Warrawong, this suggests that Hartee’s were Australian pioneers of the drive-thru service style. This domination of Sydney’s hamburger market continued into 1973, with locations opening at Moore Park Showground and Riverwood, while business was so good that the head office was moved from Earlwood to Mascot. By the end of 1973, Hartee’s sat comfortably at the top of Sydney’s fast food chain…

ON TO PART III