. . . handbags, hosiery, handkerchiefs, gloves, haberdashery, needleworkers’ needs, stationery . . .

Seven department stores feature in CARC’s new Atrium display “The heyday of Auckland’s department stores”.

Irish-born sisters Mary Jane and Charlotte Milne established the first of these stores in 1867, aiming to supply “the women of Auckland with High Class Millinery and Mantles”. When Charlotte married, her husband Henry Charles Choyce also became a partner and Milne & Choyce was born.

Court brothers George and Fred opened Karangahape Road drapery store The Beehive in 1886 after arriving from Birmingham. A third brother - John - soon joined them and Fred retired. After their sons entered the business in 1902, George and John established separate firms.

In 1924 George Court’s Big Store opened in K’Road boasting “electric lifts with inlaid wooden interiors and uniformed attendants delivering customers to each floor.” A 350-seat rooftop tearooms opened in 1934 - “a happy combination of restfulness and dignity but with an entire absence of pretentious ornament.”

Meanwhile, John Court Limited’s building on Queen Street quickly grew to eight storeys, dominating the skyline and becoming Auckland icon – the J.C.L. corner. It, too, had rooftop tearooms but male patrons were also offered an adjacent smoking lounge with furniture in “two shades of dark brown.”

John and Emily Rendell established their department store in 1882. Rendell’s stayed open until 11.00 p.m. on Saturday nights and all six of their daughters worked in the store. “On more than one occasion after 17 hours on the job, there would be a slim, childish figure draped over a sample box, with dozens of men’s stiff collars, ladies’ kid gloves and scarves of all shapes and sizes surrounding her.”

Australian John McKenzie opened his first fancy goods store in New Zealand in 1910. By the time McKenzie’s was sold 60 years later, the business had grown to include 70 stores and 1,800 staff.

Marianne Smith opened a small drapery shop in 1880, she was soon joined by her husband William and brother Andrew Caughey, and the shop became Smith & Caughey. The company still operates from its Art Deco Queen Street premises designed by architect Roy A. Lippincott and completed in 1929.

Farmers, established in 1909, features in the display with photographs of company mascot Hector the parrot (who died in 1971 aged 131 and was later stuffed and put on display); the children’s rooftop playground; the Santa parade; and the Farmers free bus service first offered to customers in 1922.

References, and also for further information please see the following books at Central Auckland Research Centre:

An Auckland network by Angela Caughey

This entry was posted on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 and is filed under ,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

2 Responses to “. . . handbags, hosiery, handkerchiefs, gloves, haberdashery, needleworkers’ needs, stationery . . . ”

  1. My grandmother use to tell stories about these stores when I was a child, she would often brag about the amazing haberdashery stuffs you can find. Colorful buttons, threads, drapes, fabrics and so on, you can imagine the amazed look in our faces since she is a really good story teller.


Kia ora! Please leave your comment below.