Friday, June 22, 2007

Tom the Commissionaire @ K&S ... #32

This is Tom the delightful commissionaire, at Kirkcaldie & Stains store on a cold and wet day in Wellington. Tom and Neville share the role and have been doing this for about eight years now and have become icons of the Wellingtion retail scene. As I understand it this is the only retail store in New Zealand with such "uniform" welcoming people.

Kirkcaldie & Stains Limited
was established in 1863 by John Kirkcaldie, a Scotsman who had served his apprenticeship as a draper, and Robert Stains, an Englishman who had worked in the retail trade in London.The two enterprising young men had met in Sydney and had come to the settlement of Wellington, which seemed to offer the best prospects for business. Each had a capital of £350, which they pooled, and they opened their first store on Lambton Quay on a site which is now occupied by the historic Bank of New Zealand building. Their small store was built from the timbers of a wrecked ship. The business thrived having been founded on the principles of selling quality merchandise at a price that gave good value and service.
As the business grew a new store was built in the same location and Kirkcaldie & Stains opened in Waterloo House, a two-storied building, in 1864. The flourishing business again outgrew its home and in 1868 larger premises were built on reclaimed land at the corner of Lambton Quay and Brandon Street, part of the present location of the store.
A branch of the company was operated from premises at the corner of Ghuznee and Cuba Streets from 1871 until 1876, and Kirkcaldies also had a branch in Napier from 1897 until 1917. Since then the company has been a single store operation based on Lambton Quay. Further adjoining premises were acquired and the store was expanded with new stores built on the existing site in 1897 and then again in 1908. The 1908 building was surrounded by the facade, which is still the hallmark of the company today. Robert Stains had returned to England in 1886 and the partnership was dissolved. The Kirkcaldie family ran the company until the great depression of the 1930's. In 1931 a controlling interest in Kirkcaldie & Stains was acquired by British Overseas Stores, a London based organisation that owned retailers throughout the world.

com·mis·sion·aire [ kə mìshə nér ] (n) uniformed worker: in the United Kingdom, a uniformed attendant or usher at a hotel or theater

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