At the dawn of the retail era, several big names were standing out amongst the dross in Sydney. Pitt Street was quickly becoming the place to be for all department stores, and David Jones was king. One of the apparent heirs to the throne was E. Way & Company. Originally a drapery claiming to the be the cheapest in Sydney (on Pitt Street? Yeah, right), E. Way was established as a department store in 1891. E. Way was acquired in 1955 by Farmers, which itself was acquired in 1961 by the Myer juggernaut.
These days, jewellery store Pandora occupies the tiny building that once featured a grand display to rival DJ’s. Look at how small (yet grand) the building is in comparison to the monstrous Westfield, and you get a sense of how easily satisfied shoppers were back then. It’s sad to think about how quickly these kinds of acquisitions and mergers can absolutely eliminate a brand, and E. Way is just another victim ‘honoured’ with an unreachable, leftover facade. It’s more a case of ‘it’s not worth bothering to take it down’ than ‘leave it up for history’s sake’. Isn’t it always the Way?
This building features an interesting double-shot of 19th century enterprise.
First we have the Bank of New South Wales, established in 1817, making it Australia’s oldest operating company. “But wait,” I hear you saying. “It’s not around today. How could it possibly be Australia’s oldest company?” I’m glad you asked. Between 1850 and 1910, the bank established branches around the country, and also in Fiji and Papua New Guinea (despite Bank of NSW meaning jack to people over there). From 1927 the bank went on a mad spree of acquisitions, buying out the Western Australian Bank and the Australian Bank of Commerce and culminating in a merger with the Commercial Bank of Australia in 1982 giving rise to Westpac. And thus…evil is born.
On the other side, we have Allans Music, which I was surprised to learn was established in Melbourne in 1850. Allans by the turn of the 20th century was the biggest music retailer in the southern hemisphere (but where was the competition?). In the 70s, Brashs decided it wanted a piece of the Allans action and acquired the company. When Brashs went under in the late 90s, Allans emerged unscathed and under new ownership. It merged with Billy Hyde Music in 2010 to become a kind of super music conglomerate, the sort that’ll be feeding us through tubes and stealing our vitality 200 years from now. Incidentally, the building to the right of Allans was the Greater Union Pitt Centre, and beside that lived a Brashs for many years. Even the Greater Union became a cut-price CD shop for a time after its closure, and the Galeries Victoria’s JB Hifi sits across the street. This section of Pitt Street has never managed to shake its musical heritage.
Rex (the kind of name we’d mock these days for being pretentious) Simpson burst onto the men’s fashion scene in the 1950s with one goal: to swathe men in fine clothes. He must have done well, because this building is named Simpson House for his efforts.
As with so many big stores from the olden days, it’s taken two modern shops to replace it; in this case, Josephs [sic] Shoes and OPSM. The real interesting point to note here is neighbour Ron Bennett’s tagline: “Fine Clothing for Men”. What a thief! That said, Ron’s been making men look fine since 1888, so it’s more likely that Rex pinched the line for his own bigger shop. That’s why he’s the king…
TRUTHFUL UPDATE: Reader Ruth has written in to reveal the heretofore unknown true story of Rex Simpson’s ownership. Writes Ruth, “Rex Simpson wasn’t actually the store’s owner; the store was owned by my grandfather, John Bell. l remember visiting at the shop many times in the late 1960s when l was in my late teens. He also owned the factory that made the clothes.”
I guess John Bell Clothes didn’t sound quite as dynamic. Thanks, Ruth!
The idea of a small real estate agent such as Bristol & Co. sitting in the middle of the city seems strange now. It’s hard to imagine that a small fry like Bristol could ever compete in an environment full of franchises and big name firms. Likewise, the current incarnation of the building, Citymart, seems ill-equipped to compete with the 7-Elevens and City Conveniences of downtown Sydney, primarily because it’s closed and near empty.
Map World is another instance of a shop too small for its ambitions. It probably did alright in 2000, but in an age where everybody’s phone knows the city better than your average taxi driver, Map World’s pretty much fallen off the map. With a track record of three duds, maybe it’s just an unlucky shop.
Ewan Wilson was just an ordinary guy when he founded Kiwi International Airlines in 1994. By April 1995, he was just an ordinary CEO of an ordinary small budget airline, providing cheap airfares for trans-Tasman flights and battling with rival Freedom Air. In late 1995, Wilson was just an ordinary moronic fraudster, making false claims about his personal financial situation as he applied for a loan for Kiwi Air. This led to Wilson becoming an ordinary stupid prisoner for the next three months for having acted ‘without moral regard’. Funnily enough, Kiwi Air never got that loan, and in September 1996 became just another airline going into voluntary liquidation, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded on either side of the Tasman. Around the same time, this building ceased to be Kiwi Airlines’ Sydney office, but didn’t cease to look like it.
These days, Ewan Wilson is just your ordinary disgraced former businessman, current Hamilton city councillor, and cancer patient.
Meanwhile, DJ School and DJ Gear have gone into business as liquidators. I had no idea the DJ game was so tough.