Down Memory Lane – Mackellys, Prince Street, Grafton

All over Australia, in country towns large and small, the ‘family businesses’ are slowly disappearing, leaving many wishing for ‘the good old days’.

Some business served their community over several generations spanning more than a century.

Much of their story can be found in country newspapers and, Grafton, in northern New South Wales is no different.

In 2020 the local newspaper ‘The Daily Examiner’ moved to ‘on-line’ much to the concern of the local population. It had served the community in the printed version since 1859. Firstly as a weekly, then bi-weekly and tri-weekly until 1915, when it became a daily.

Delving into the issues available at the National Library of Australia Historical Newspapers website we can go “down memory lane.”

Down Memory Lane :-

Mackelly’s -Drapers and Mercers, Prince Street Grafton

“People may wonder why Mr. Jack Kelly, popular principal of Mackelly’s continually emphasises his policy of ‘Quality and Low Prices’ The answer is simply this:- He buys quality goods on a large scale at very keen prices, thus permitting him to give the public the benefit of such keen buying, and that is why high quality goods ,are continually being sold at strictly competitive prices.

Many years ago Mr. Jack Kelly was a partner in the business trading the name McCarthy and Kelly in Ulmarra, which was, in those days, just a small and undistinguished store. The partners later turned their attentions to Grafton, and opened a store in Prince Street, opposite the present site of the Rural Bank and which operated as Mackellys, and this was the combined names of the principals. Following the decease of Mr. McCarthy, Jack Kelly assumed full control of the business,

View along Prince Street, showing parked cars – Grafton, NSW
 State Library of New South Wales.
At Work and Play – 06935
From <>

and a few years later erected his present modern and spacious premises in the main shopping block. There is also a branch of Mackelly’s in Maclean, which is under the capable control of Jack Kelly’s brother, Jim. The Grafton store is probably the most modern and up-to-date business house in town, and with its distinctive exterior, spacious show windows, and delightfully decorated interior provides every convenience for comfortable shopping.

Mr. Kelly claims that he carries one of the largest and most complete stocks of drapery in Grafton, and a visit to the store will reveal huge ranges of millinery, manchester, drapery, etc, in a wide ramification of styles, and all marked at prices to suit every pocket. At this establishment the modern woman will always find at her command those many little accessories that characterize her attire, while the showrooms display women’s dresses, coats, evening gowns and child’s wear to suit the most fastidious shopper. Men are not forgotten, for a large section is devoted to supplying of their every need shirts, overcoats, sports clothes, accessories, etc.

Mr. Kelly is a prominent participator in all public movements, and is a CRJC ( Clarence River Jockey Club) committeeman, a member of the Jacaranda Festival Committee, and an active member of the Golf Club. His personality and Honesty have won him widespread favor, and this is one reason why his establishment can boast so many satisfied clients. Quality goods, low prices, and courteous service have made Mackelly’s a popular trading centre.[1]”

Three years before:

“Another impressive addition to the rapidly growing list of modern stores in Prince Street, Grafton, is the new brick shop at Nos 45,47 and 49 in which the progressive firm of Mackelly’s opened for business on Tuesday morning, after vacating the old premises further along on the other side of the street.

The new general drapery and mercery store of Mackelly’s is one of which any firm might be proud, constructed on the most modern lines with a display front and interior appointments lighting and decorations suggestive of the most advanced business houses of the kind in the metropolis, while the greatly increased space available will be appreciated by salesmen and clients alike for its convenience in showing and serving.

“Mackelly’s” the name adopted by the firm, is derived from a compound of the names of the original proprietors, Messrs. McCarthy and Kelly, and has been retained for business purposes by the present prinicipal, Mr. J Kelly. The firm has made rapid strides since commencing in business at Ulmarra, about 20 years ago. So well had it progressed in the first five years or so that it was that it was decided to expand the activities of the firm and open at Grafton, and a little later at Maclean, and in the next 15 years the business steadily outgrew the premises, both at Maclean and Grafton, with the result that the Maclean premises had to be enlarged and remodeled, and a larger building had to be sought in Grafton, in Grafton, in order to cope with the expansion. The business in Ulmarra was disposed of, and the firm now confines its activities to Maclean and Grafton.

When it was found necessary to seek more commodious premises in Grafton the three stores in the heart of the business centre, formerly occupied by Blow’s, Mrs. Chambers’ ladies’ wear business and Smith’s music shop, were demolished and the whole property, which is owned by Mrs. J Miller, was remodeled by Mackelly’s into an up-to-date, two-storeyed brick building, the ground floor being for Mackelly’s shop and the upper storey for offices.

The architects, Messrs. Ashe and Gilbert and F C Hargrave, in conjunction, the builders, Messrs. White and Thompson, and the lighting electricians Messrs. McKenna and smith, have completed their work in a manner that is a credit, not only to themselves and the owner and lessees, but to the

business enterprise of Grafton, which is rapidly demonstrating its equality to the best business enterprise in any other part of the state.

In the old store activities, especially at sale time, were becoming congested to the point where it was difficult to meet the demands of customers quickly and efficiently, owing to the overcrowding of shelves and floor space. In the new store all this has been changed. The very latest system of open display a is now in use, owing to the convenience of the wide, roomy, airy, well-lighted interior, which is particularly noticeable in the department for haberdashery, fancy goods and associated lines.

The showroom is extremely modern and specious, and has an annexe containing fitting cubicles and a rest room with all appointments. The approach to the showroom is particularly attractive, the tones harmonising with those of the entrance and other departments, and the rich colour effects being accentuated by an arrangement of decorative canopies which soften the effect of space by day and are illuminated with soft-toned, many tinted lights at night.

The manchester and dress department has been greatly enlarged, and a very attractive type of display tables has been installed, very much enhancing the efficency of the service in this department.

In the men’s and boys’ section a great deal more displace space is available and the modern glass counters and showcases provide the maximum of convenience to shoppers, giving an unimpaired view at the articles for sale, together with ease of selection. To this section a new fitting room has been added.

Greater space and convenience also have been provided in the hosiery and gloves department, which is situated just inside the entrance on the left-hand side of the building.

The awninged store front is ultra-modern, finished in the new ‘colour-tex’ brick, with the newest style od ‘clear vision’ display windows, and the entrances are tiled in colours to tone with the whole decorative scheme.

Convenience of clients has been the principal feature in arranging the locality of the various departments.

At the left entry is the hosiery and dress section, inside the centre entrance, the toilet-ware and Manchester, and at the right entrance the men’s and boy’s department, while the commodious showroom may be approached with convenience from any entrance, and any department is easily visible from the showroom. The most modern idea of eliminating stairs has been adopted, so that all shopping may be done on one floor.

An inspection of the premises by the “Daily Examiner” representative yesterday revealed that the demands of modern retailing for ample space, simplicity of layout and bright interiors have been more than fulfilled in Mackelly’s new premises. ..

…..With Grafton business people continuing to build up the scale of these new premises, it will not be many years before the city will out-do many of the present shopping centres of the metropolis, in style, comfort and convenience, if not in size…[2]

[1]Article -Mackellys from Who’s Who on the Clarence?- Mackellys,Daily Examiner,8 September 1939,p9 c1, retrieved from Trove,National Library of Australia website,14 February 2021

From <>

[2] Extract from New Buildings in Prince Street,Daily Examiner (Grafton),17 March 1936, p4, retrieved from Trove, National Library of Australia, website 14 February 2021.From <

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