9. Corner Store

This brick and iron shopfront constructed in 1903 is a typical corner store of the type found around Australia in the first half of the 20th Century. The general store also served as the original North Perth Post Office and Telegraph office, before the purpose-built building on View Street (Site 6 on this trail) opened in 1916.  In 1906, Miss Watson was listed as the Post Mistress and shopkeeper.

Corner stores were found throughout Australia in the first half of the 20th century, before the increased availability of motor vehicles lead to the rise of larger supermarkets that attracted residents away from their local shopping areas.  The Chermside & Districts Historical Society in Queensland reports that in the years from 1900:

“…small corner shops began to appear selling the day to day needs of the people living nearby; mostly foods, groceries, the paper, aerated drinks, vegetables, sweets, small goods, preserved meats and other small items…The usual method of selling goods was to separate the customer from the shop assistant and the goods by a counter, the customer told the assistant what was wanted and he/she would get the article weigh it out and put it in a paper bag. The lot was then wrapped in a parcel or parcels, tied with string and the customer carried the lot away in a string bag or a basket or a sugar bag after paying the assistant who ‘rang up’ the money in the cash register or ’till’. Often straight backed chairs were provided for the customers while they waited to be served. It was all very time consuming and belonged to a more leisurely age. It was also a more user friendly as the assistant and the customer had time to talk and get to know each other.”

This interior of a Perth corner store from 1933 shows the highly ordered rows of goods behind the wooden counter and a display cabinet. The walls are decorated with posters advertising a range of goods including fly spray, jam, and soap.

Interior of a Corner Store Perth 1933
Interior of a Corner Store Perth, 1933

The shop on the corner of Angove and Woodville Streets would have been one of many located in neighbourhoods, where people would travel on foot to shop for most of their daily requirements.  The picture below from the 1920s shows a corner store in neighbouring Mt Hawthorn, with a similar bullnosed verandah to the Angove Street premises.

General Store, Corner Anzac Road and Coogee St Mt Hawthorn, 1926.
General Store, Anzac Road and Coogee Street Mt Hawthorn, 1926.

The building at 39 Angove Street was converted to a Government State Bank in 1915 and the former postmaster Mr. Phillip continued to operate his store there until 1930. The shop was vacant between 1931 and 1933, following which different businesses operated until the late 1940s. These included a boot maker, Mr. Horace Collins; Mr Eyre who ran a mixed business and Mr Arthur Temple who operated a hairdresser.

Local stores continued to play an important role in the suburb until the mid-century, when growing car ownership lead to the rise of the supermarket.  The image below shows the interior of the Melray Store, located at 453 Fitzgerald Street (today the frontage of the Four5nine bar at Rosemount Hotel) in the 1950s.

Eric Elliot Job, possibly with his wife Olive inside the Melray Store. Cans, bottles and boxes are piled up almost to ceiling height.

In 1956, Thomas Wardle (later to become Lord Mayor of Perth) opened Australia’s first self-serve discount grocery store, Tom the Cheap, in Charles Street North Perth.  By 1969, there were 185 Tom the Cheap stores around Australia, with annual turnover of £200 million.

Assets and References

Image Courtesy City of Vincent Local History Centre

  • PH02736 – Griggs general Store, corner of Coogee Street and Anzac Road, Mount Hawthorn, 1926
  • PH02827 – Interior of the Melray Store at 453 Fitzgerald Street, North Perth c 1950s.

Image Courtesy State Library of Western Australia

  • 014578PD –  Interior of a corner store, Perth, 1933. Sourced from the collections of the State Library of Western Australia and reproduced with the permission of the Library Board of Western Australia.

Australian Food History Timeline

Chermside and District Historical Society Inc. (Information on Corner Stores)

Heritage Council of WA – Heritage List

Kalgoorlie Miner 21 September 1936 p4 (Trove)

Wikipedia – Thomas Wardle

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