|Founded||1885 (re-branded 2004)|
|Headquarters||Sydney, New South Wales|
|Products||Clothing, footwear, accessories, cosmetics, homewares, electrical, furniture, general merchandise|
Grace Bros was an Australian department store chain, founded in 1885. It was bought by Myer (later Coles Myer) in 1983. There were 25 stores across New South Wales and the ACT, until they were re-branded under the Myer name in 2004.
Grace Bros had a long and rich history of retailing in Sydney following its founding by the Grace brothers, Albert Edward and Joseph Neal Grace, in 1885. The two brothers migrated from England in the 1880s and sold goods door-to-door. In 1885, they opened their first small shop in George Street, Sydney and by 1906, they had opened a five-storey building at Broadway (now the site of the Broadway Shopping Centre). In 1931, Joseph Neal Grace died and Albert Grace became Managing Director of Grace Bros Ltd. Prior to his death in 1938, Albert Grace planned suburban expansion of the Grace Bros stores from the City, a move which is considered the reason Grace Bros survived when many of their contemporaries perished such as Anthony Hordern’s and Mark Foy's. Isabel Grace died in 1970 at age of 86 years.
Sydney's major Grace Bros was located on Broadway. Through several different stores at varied locations in the city, the store first came to Bay St in 1904. Subsequent additions and property purchases over the years culminated in the existing buildings being completed in 1923. Grace Bros boasted a store with, among many features, "three and a half acres of furniture"! The Grace auditorium dominated the social life of Sydney with dances, fashion parades, children's events displays and pantomimes held within it. 1954 saw the Royal Visit of Queen Elizabeth II with the Broadway stores extensively decorated. However, the centre of Sydney shopping gradually moved from Broadway into the current CBD around Market and Pitt Sts, and Grace Bros vacated the Broadway store in 1992. The building was resurrected as a multi-million dollar retail and cinema complex in 1998.
The Grace Building
In 1926, the Grace Brothers, Albert Edward and Joseph Neal Grace, purchased a block of land on the corner of York, Clarence and King streets in Sydney, on which they would build the "Grace Building", the jewel in the crown of their retail empire. They believed the site was perfectly positioned for the building they planned would become "The Showpiece of the Company", with new public transport routes and the coming Sydney Harbour Bridge turning York and Clarence Streets in the major city thoroughfares. Company letterhead even showed the building as being "...on the Harbour Bridge Highway." Broadway had been affected by the shift of the city's commercial district toward Circular Quay and the changing public transport routes away from Sydney's South end, and so the Grace Building was to be the company's saviour. The Grace Building was officially opened by Sydney Lord Mayor Ernest Marks on 3 July 1930.
York St never became the shopping thoroughfare the Grace Brothers had envisaged and, combined with the effects of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the building never lived up to expectations. By the onset of the Second World War Grace Bros. was experiencing difficulty in leasing office suites and much of the space was allocated to government departments. In 1943 the Grace Building was requisitioned under national security regulations by the Federal Government for use as headquarters by the Supreme Commander of allied forces in the south-west Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur. In 1945, the Grace Building was compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth. In 1995, it was purchased by the Low Yat Group of Kuala Lumpur for adaptive reuse as a 382-room hotel, opening in 1997.
Suburban store growth
Grace Bros opened two small stores in suburban Sydney (in Parramatta and Bondi Junction) as early as in 1933; these stores were completely rebuilt and expanded in 1957 into the first department stores in Australia designed with the family car in mind.
In 1965, one of Australia's first major suburban shopping centres opened at Roselands at a then cost of $15 million. The centrepiece was a large Grace Bros department store. However, at 4.30pm on 13 June 1969, a huge fire broke out on the 4th floor of the Grace Bros section of Roselands. Fire brigades from all over Sydney attended the huge blaze which caused thousands of dollars worth of damage before it was brought under control. Suburban stores were subsequently opened at Hurstville, Miranda, Parramatta, Penrith, Ryde (closed 1985), Bondi Junction, Burwood (now a David Jones), Blacktown, Castle Hill, Hornsby (opened 1979), Liverpool, Carlingford (closed, now a Target), Chatswood, Macquarie Centre and Warringah.
Over the years, Grace Bothers opened and also acquired other stores as part of its expansion. Notable was the acquisition of publicly listed Queanbeyan-Canberra retailer, JB Young's Ltd during late 1979. Regional stores were also opened in Dubbo, Orange, Wollongong, Charlestown, Erina, and Wagga Wagga. Some of the stores that have closed include Goulburn (closed 1995), Ulladulla, Nowra (closed 2003), Tamworth (converted in 2003 to a Target), Bathurst (closed 2004), Cooma, Gordon (A Myer until it closed in 1983 when Grace Bros took over Myer as there were 2 Grace Bros stores nearby at Chatswood and Hornsby), Maroubra Junction (became the Good Buy Clearance Centre in the 90s, closed in 2002 prior to the Maroubra Mall/Pacific Square redevelopment), Queanbeyan, Bairnsdale (after becoming a Myer, converted to a K-Mart in 2004 ) and Mount Druitt (closed 2004). The Castle Hill store which opened on August 11, 2001, was the final Grace Bros. store to be opened under the Grace Bros. brand and was also the final store to be designed in NSW, with a team at the Roselands support office overseeing all the plans and development.
- Broadway (opened 1885)
- Batemans Bay
- Bathurst (acquired from Myer 1983)
- Blacktown (acquired from Myer 1983)
- Bondi (opened 1933)
- Burwood (acquired from Myer 1983)
- Carlingford (acquired from Myer 1983)
- Castle Hill (opened 2001)
- Charlestown (opened 1989)
- Chatswood (opened 1961)
- Cooma (acquired from Hain & Co 1984)
- Dubbo (acquired from Myer 1983)
- Erina (opened 1987)
- Gosford (Acquired from Myer 1983 - moved to Erina August 1987)
- Hornsby (opened 1979)
- Liverpool (opened 1972)
- Macquarie (opened 1981)
- Maroubra (opened 1981)
- Miranda (opened 1971)
- Mount Druitt (opened 1973)
- Orange (acquired from Myer 1983)
- Parramatta (opened 1933) - Australia's first suburban department store
- Penrith (acquired from Myer 1983)
- Queanbeyan (acquired from JB Youngs 1979)
- Roselands (opened 1965)
- Sydney City (acquired from Myer 1983 - originally Farmers Department Store)
- Sydney City Piazza (acquired from Mark Foys 1980)
- Top Ryde (acquired from AJ Benjamins 1964 - closed 1985)
- Wagga Wagga (acquired from Myer 1983)
- Warringah Mall (opened as a homemaker store in 1963 upgraded to full line store 1973)
- West Wyalong
- Wollongong (opened 1987)
- Belconnen (Acquired from Myer 1983)
- Canberra (opened 1990)
- Dickson (acquired from JB Young 1979)
- East Row (acquired from JB Young 1979)
- Kingston (acquired from JB Young 1979)
- Tuggeranong (opened 1987)
In 1983, Grace Bros bought Myer NSW, and then in July Myer acquired Grace Bros Holdings Ltd. The Myer store on Market and Pitt Streets in Sydney became the main Grace Bros store. In 1985, the company became a division of the Coles-Myer corporation, and the Grace Bros stores effectively merged with the 35 Victorian based Myer stores. In February 2004 a marketing decision was made to rebrand all the stores as Myer stores. This decision brought the name of the Myer chain into line around Australia. This angered many loyal Grace Bros shoppers. They resented Myer, always considered a Melbourne company from taking over their Sydney store.
Grace Bros Removals
Grace Bros Removals was established by Albert Edward and Joseph Neal Grace in Sydney in 1911. Today it is part of the Grace Group, which consists of the Removals Group, Records Management, Information Management and Self Storage.
Grace Removals Group started out with a repository and two horse-drawn vehicles; today, 100 years later the company boasts a fleet of over 500 vehicles and 40 branches spanning across Australia and New Zealand.
Notes and references
- "Joseph Neal Grace Biography". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 25 August 2006.
- "Broadway Shopping Centre History". Broadway Shopping Centre. Archived from the original on 20 August 2006. Retrieved 25 August 2006.
- "Grace Building". Office of Environment and Heritage. NSW Government. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
- "Chronology of the Grace Building" at Teaching Heritage, NSW Government
- "Tamworth and Nowra Grace Bros Store Closures". NSW Government Hansard. NSW Parliament. Retrieved 25 August 2006.
- "Bairnsdale Myer set to close doors". Australian Broadcasting Corporation Abc.net.au. 2004-06-02. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- "Coles Myer ditches Grace Bros name". B&T magazine. Retrieved 25 August 2006.
- Reading the Past in the Grace Building at NSW Teaching Heritage