Fitzgerald’s…..the name evokes memories for so many Tasmanians.
In March 1886, Hobart born George Parker Fitzgerald (1843-1917) established a department store that would remain an integral part of the city for decades to come.
I suspect this is one of the earliest photos of the building, not a motor vehicle in sight.
Innovative advertising…..humour went a long way then, and still does;
Remember when department stores were designed with long counters? Those little stools were a good idea …..once your skirts were arranged decorously. 😍 At least customers didn’t have to search for a payment point as we do now!
The bargain basement indicated in the next photo was a permanent feature, and always popular.
ADVERSITY TURNED TO ADVANTAGE BY FITZGERALD’S
In July 1911 the store was completely destroyed by fire. The following report is from a lengthy investigation published in the Tasmanian News on July 18.
Great businessmen are able to view such an event as an opportunity rather than a catastrophe, and this was the case with Mr Fitzgerald. His stock had been insured, and almost immediately a much larger, state-of-the-art new store arose. From The Daily Post, March 14 the following year;
‘The fire occurred on July 5, and in a fortnight Mr Douglas Salier, the architect, had prepared the plans, and the tender of Messrs. Cooper and Sons was accepted for the new edifice, which may be said to be the expression of the experience and ideas, based on the personal observations of Mr. Fitzgerald in his travels abroad…..The facade, assuredly one of the the most beautiful in the whole city, is treated in white with black and white insets over the name board, and the effect is most attractive, rivalling the picturesque creations of San Francisco, the style being a modern adaptation of the Renaissance.’
Additional staff from Europe included a French glove expert and highly trained professionals for the store’s lace department.
However, on opening day one of the most admired innovations was a Lacre delivery vehicle, the very same as that used by Harrods of London.
In the spirit of inclusion within the company, various staff members had the honour of their ‘own’ fashion rooms.
With the new building open, an aging Fitzgerald looked to the next generation to maintain his legacy. He formed a partnership with three of his sons; Douglas, Tom and Henry.
George Parker Fitzgerald died on March 28 1917 leaving an estate of over £10,000.
The years of the Great Depression presented challenges for all businesses. However, Fitzgerald’s response was to expand, for the good of the community as well as for itself.
‘A policy of progress and optimism has been pursued by Messrs. G.P. Fitzgerald and Co. Ltd. in the decision to purchase property adjoining its premises in Collins Street, Hobart, for the purpose of making building extensions……Mr D. Fitzgerald, one of the directors of the firm, when questioned yesterday by a representative of The Mercury, indicated the reasons why the firm is proceeding with its proposals in spite of the existing conditions. The firm felt, he said, that it was necessary to demonstrate to the public its confidence in the future …..the firm would be giving employment at a time when it was needed.’ (Mercury, 29 April, 1932).
I love the following photo of young Fitzgerald’s staff members in the 1930s. Only one has been identified; Myra Johnson (top right), then 16 or 17. Their job security was a direct benefit of the firm’s vision, despite a world wide, economic slump.
PEACE BRINGS GREATER PROSPERITY, REFLECTED AT FITZGERALD’S
The height of fashion; models wearing Fitzgerald’s bathers at Sandy Bay. (Mercury 19th September 1946)
In September 1947, Fitzgerald’s brought four French mannequins to Hobart, creating an absolute sensation after the restrictions and hardships of the war years. The fashion conscious ladies of Hobart queued for hours to book seats for the parades.
Eighteen murals were painted to compliment the event. An example is shown below;
Douglas Fitzgerald, who became Managing Director following the death of his father, died on Christmas Day 1952 aged 69.
FIT FOR ROYALTY
When the 1954 Royal visit to Tasmania was being organized, staff from each department in Fitzgerald’s competed by creating themed displays. Honours were shared equally between men’s wear and cosmetics. Such was the co-operation shown by everyone during the contest that all 200 staff members were rewarded with a night at the theatre. In those days, home gardens in Tasmania were a joy to behold. Staff provided fresh flowers from their own gardens for the Royal occasion, to be placed throughout the store as the final touch.
G. P. Fitzgeralds & Co. existed as a ‘majority family owned business’ for nearly 100 years, until it was acquired by Charles Davis in 1981.
And there I will end the story, although there were other iterations of the business before the doors finally closed in 2020. while operating as Harris and Scarfe. I understand that the building is currently for sale.
FEEL FREE TO SHARE YOUR MEMORIES IN THE COMMENT BOX BELOW. 🥰
AND FOR MORE ON GEORGE PARKER FITZGERALD (A MAN OF MANY PARTS) CLICK HERE.