Grace Bros.

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For Grace Brothers, the fictional department store portrayed in the BBC TV series, see Are You Being Served?
Grace Bros.
Department Store
Industry Retail
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.


Albert Edward Grace, the head of Grace Bros department store and his secretary in his office
The Broadway Grace Bros. store in the 1930s

Grace Bros had a long and rich history of retailing in New South Wales, especially in Sydney following its founding by the Grace brothers, Albert Edward and Joseph Neal Grace, in 1885.[1] 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"![2] 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 Streets, and Grace Bros vacated the Broadway store in 1992. The building was resurrected as a multimillion-dollar retail and cinema complex in 1998.

The Grace Building[edit]

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[3] 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.[4]

Suburban store growth[edit]

Grace Bros Parramatta in 1939

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 Mall. The Castle Hill store which opened on 11 August 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.

Country Stores[edit]

Over the years, Grace Bros. 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. The JB Youngs stores traded under this name until mid 1986 when it was changed to Grace Bros. By acquiring JB Young, Grace Bros also became the owner of the value positioned, apparel & manchester retailer "Fossey's" and benefited from stores JB Youngs had acquired in 1974 purcase of NSW retailer John Meagher & Co. There was a specific "Country Division" within Grace Bros. based in Canberra, established in 1985 at the time of the name change from Youngs to Grace Bros. The Country Division was responsible for regional merchandising at the stores including Kingston, Woden, Dickson, Civic (ACT), Fyshwick, Quenbeyan, Goulburn, Cooma, and Batemans Bay. The Country Division also included former Myer (some of which were branded "The Western Stores" stores) in Bathurst, Dubbo, Gosford, Orange, Wagga, Young, Cowra, Cessnock and Tamworth. New country stores (regional) were opened in Wollongong, Charlestown, Erina (relocated from Gosford). Some of the stores that have closed include Goulburn (closed 1995), Ulladulla, Nowra (closed 2003), Tamworth (converted in 2003 to a Target),[5] Bathurst (closed 2004), Cooma, Queanbeyan, Bairnsdale (after becoming a Myer, converted to a K-Mart in 2004 [6]). Myer Wollongong closed on 3 October 2016. Myer Orange will close on 29 January 2017, after 167 years of trading through various owners, 21 of those years it was branded Grace Bros.

Taken over[edit]

In 1983, Grace Bros bought Myer NSW (excluding Myer Albury & Myer Tweed Heads), 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.[7] This decision returned the Myer name to NSW and once again it was a nationwide name. This angered many loyal Grace Bros shoppers. They resented Myer, always considered a Melbourne company from taking over their Sydney store.

Grace Bros Removals[edit]

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[edit]

  1. ^ "Joseph Neal Grace Biography". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 25 August 2006. 
  2. ^ "Broadway Shopping Centre History". Broadway Shopping Centre. Archived from the original on 20 August 2006. Retrieved 25 August 2006. 
  3. ^ "Grace Building". Office of Environment and Heritage. NSW Government. Retrieved 26 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "Chronology of the Grace Building" at Teaching Heritage, NSW Government
  5. ^ "Tamworth and Nowra Grace Bros Store Closures". NSW Government Hansard. NSW Parliament. Archived from the original on 16 May 2006. Retrieved 25 August 2006. 
  6. ^ "Bairnsdale Myer set to close doors". Australian Broadcasting Corporation 2004-06-02. Retrieved 2013-08-26. 
  7. ^ "Coles Myer ditches Grace Bros name". B&T magazine. Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 25 August 2006. 

Further reading[edit]

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